First of all, you can sue for $10,000. Second there are way to get more than just the security deposit back that involve a state statute and municipal ordinance.
As for getting the money back after you sue, you can get is called a "rent levy." The short version is that you get various documents from the court, provide them to the Sheriff, and then around the first of the month, the Sheriff will knock on the door of the people who you state are tenants of the defendant/debtor/landlord and the Sheriff will ask that they write a rent check to you, to the maximum of the rent and to the maximum of your judgment. It is a bit detailed, but is something that is quite common practice out of Small Claims.
If you have further questions, be sure to speak with a lawyer that knows about Small Claims.
-Adam Jaffe Law Office of Adam Jay Jaffe PO Box 2437 Camarillo, CA 93011-2437 (805) 504-2223 www.smallclaimsappeals.com Adam@SmallClaimsAppeals.com This posting is provided for “information purposes” only and should not be relied upon as "legal advice". Nothing transmitted from this posting constitutes the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed here may differ substantially in individual situations or in different states.
Mr. Jaffe's assessment is correct. IF you have additional questions about small claims court, in California, the have the Small Claims Advisor. If you contact you local courthouse or visit their website, there should be a link. The Small Claims Advisor will help you through the process of filing and serving your SC-100. Once you receive the judgment, you'll have to enforce it. Good luck.
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