Tenant Frequently Asked Questions
1. When will I get my security deposit back?
California Civil Code Section §1950.5 requires that within three weeks (21 days) after a tenant has vacated the unit, the owner must either: 1) return the security deposit to the tenant, 2) furnish a copy of an itemized statement indicating the amount of any part of the security deposit used (e.g. for unpaid rent, repairs, etc.), or 3) a combination of #1 and #2.
If your building falls under rent control in areas such as the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco or Berkeley, a landlord may be required to pay interest on your security deposit. In most such jurisdictions, the landlord can elect to either pay the interest out on a periodic basis or apply it as an offset to the tenant ledger.
2. Can the landlord deduct from the security deposit?
A landlord can charge a tenant for cleaning, unpaid rent, and damage to the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear. Tenants are required to leave the unit as clean as when they moved in. This includes carpets, drapes, miniblinds, ovens, etc. If the unit was dirty when the tenant moved in they are under no obligation to leave it clean. Tenants are required to pay for damage, but not normal wear and tear, to the unit occurring during their tenancy. Pre-existing damage cannot be charged to present tenants. Normal wear and tear is the degradation of a unit that occurs through its regular use. Examples of normal wear and tear could be: the natural discoloration of walls over time or as a result of poor air quality; the “matting” down or wear of pile of carpeting in high traffic areas (not dirt); warping doors or windows; minor chipping of paint or scratches on counters; and any other aging from normal use that results in depreciation of the property.