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Bad Faith determination by Small Claims Court

San Diego, CA |

Our tenants requested a pre-move-out inspection on their 30 days notice for July. They asked for a specific date. We agreed. They canceled that and switched to another date. In fact they did this a total of 3 times before scheduling it for the last day of their tenancy on the 30th. When we arrived on 30th they told us they were not able to do it, they were busy cleaning and fixing things. We have that in writing email as well.

We intended on doing a walk through inspection and worked with them on when to do it. But they just kept canceling.

We are now being sued for Bad Faith for $2K + $4K. They had a security deposit of $2K and we listed damages of around $3.5K. We sent this itemized list within 21 days and followup receipts shortly after that.

Would a judge see this at bad faith?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

This is only your side of the story. The tenant has a different story. I think the only issue is whether or not you complied with the statutes or made improper deductions from the deposit. The walk-through, or lack of it, I believe only goes to proof. Check out this link to the CA Dept. of Consumer Affairs -- it may help you decide on your best course of action: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your reply. We do have these requests and cancellation/date changes in emails from them. We are wondering if working with them during their requests and agreeing to their date changes shows bad faith since it was never completed.

Michael Raymond Daymude

Michael Raymond Daymude

Posted

I don't believe so. I think it shows the opposite. However, your question is unclear as to why it was never completed. In any event, I think the issue will be whether you complied with the statutes and whether your deductions were appropriate. If you failed to comply with the statute, unless excused because of the tenant's actions, or your deductions were inappropriate then you might be facing a penalty for bad faith. You might want to consider settlement. Just because you have been sued does not mean you cannot settle.

Asker

Posted

Im sorry for being unclear. The walk through with them was not completed because they kept cancelling their appt that they made. The last appt they made was on their last day of tenancy. They cancelled that one as well when we arrived. We went in the day after that and did a walk through by ourselves since they were gone. Does the statute speak to this type of issue? I guess we should have never worked with them on the dates and just forced ourselves in there. Not sure how the Court will look at this repeated cancellation of appt by the tenants.

Posted

It seems to me that you did what you should have to comply with the law. Only if there is a legitimate argument that your assessments for damages/repairs was grossly and intentionally inflated might they have an argument that you acted in bad faith. They're trying to argue "bad faith" because if successful, they could be awarded double the amount of their security deposit. It almost never works and I don't think they have a good argument in that respect given the facts you recite.

Kevin King, Principal- Essential Law Services. HTTP://ESSENTIALAW.COM, 415-562-6862. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice for a particular case. This post does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author of the question answered. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with me or another qualified attorney off-site.

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Posted

You did an accounting. I have never seen bad faith found where there has been an accounting. The only problem I see is the tardiness of the receipts. They or estimates are due within 21 days. Still, I don't see bad faith as an issue, and this assumes that the security deposit accounting didn't include charges to remodel the unit on the former tenant's dime.

A proper response would require a thorough investigation into the history and background of this relationship. The information provided above is just that, information, to be used as you see fit.

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Posted

The bad faith retention of security deposit law, Cal Civil Code Section 1950.5 states that you have 21 days to return the security deposit in full, or less with an itemization. If you do not have all your receipts within 21 days, you can still send the bulk of the report with ESTIMATES and follow-up within 14 MORE days with actual receipts. If this was done, then you SHOULD be safe.

But as other have said, this is only one side of the story and it is difficult to know what actually did happen. Just be sure to plan accordingly for your trial and lay a road map/timeline for the judge to see what happened.

You should contact an attorney that knows about small claims to prepare you for your trial.

-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.

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