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At end of tenancy, can a landlord withhold a security deposit for repairs they made during tenancy?

Pleasanton, CA |

We recvd a portion of our deposit 33 days after our tenancy ended. Included was an explanation of why LL kept $ and one "bill" for $827 from LL's friend who replaced a window sash on a window that was not broken by us and had become filled with mold. After 11mos, LL replaced the sash bc the home was for sale and the listing agent demanded so. LL never spoke to us about the window damage (just appts for quotes) nor did ll see it. LL's friend took care of it during off hours to avoid getting permits and/or having city inspectors see/cite. LL's friend asked us to accommodate this schedule for these reasons. Window was fixed. We heard nothing more until we rcvd the mail today.
Can LL's repair/replace and pay for damaged items then charge us for them 8mos later? Good News: We bought the house!

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Congrats on the house!

    Sounds to me like LL stuck you for the $827 and you'll have to take him/her to court to recover it.

    The process is fairly easy, most courts have on-line forms, CA has good information on its websites regarding how to handle such matters (for example http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf).

    Finally, depending on how much you want the $827 back, consider contacting a local CA landlord tenant attorney--many offer free consultations--to discuss your specifics and the best way ahead.

    I am licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, answering your query does not create an attorney-client relationship and I AM NOT providing you legal advice. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights--or rights to recovery of damages. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.


  2. Yes, a landlord can apply the security deposit to cover any damages, regardless of when the damage occurred.

    However, in your particular situation, the landlord cannot wait more than 21 days to either refund your security deposit or give you an itemized deduction list. (Civil Code section 1950.5). According to the California Supreme Court decision in the case of Granberry v. Islay Investments (1995) 9 Cal.4th 738, 745, after the 21 days have transpired, the landlord loses the right to keep any of the security deposit and must return the entire deposit to the tenant.

    HOWEVER, the landlord could still charge you for any damages not covered by the security deposit, even after the 21 days.

    So, the long and short of it is that you can certainly sue the landlord for the return of your full security deposit, but this would probably just invite the landlord to sue you back for the alleged damages. Many people in your situation would just choose to do nothing (unless of course, the landlord sued in small claims court, in which case, you would bring a defendant's claim to countersue).

    The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.


  3. Typically yes the landlord can deduct for damage he repairs. However, in your situation, if you did not cause the damage and the landlord was notified of this fact, then no, he cannot deduct the repairs from you security deposit.

    Moreover, the landlord must send the accounting 21 days from the date the tenant vacates.

    You may want to consider taking your former landlord to small claims court.

    The opinion provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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