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Can a CA landlord deduct carpet cleaning and wall painting expenses from a security deposit if there is no damage?

Los Angeles, CA |
Filed under: Landlord-tenant law

When I rented my 1-bdrm in Los Angeles, CA, it was newly renovated: walls were painted, and the carpet was either new, or almost new and steam-cleaned.

I am now moving out, after 2 years. There is no damage whatsoever to the carpet or the walls. No scratches or marks. Of course, I lived there for 2 years so the carpet is not as clean as when I moved in (I will vacuum it). The landlord is a big management company. They are saying they will charge me $110 for carpet steam-cleaning and another $150 for repainting the walls. They said so without even seeing my unit. It seems they charge this routinely to everybody.

They are telling me that the unit must be "equally clean" as when I moved in. Because it was new, they want to charge me to restore it to that level of cleanliness. Is this legal?

Attorney Answers 2

  1. A security deposit may be used for cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved. (Civil Code Section 1950.5(b)(3).)

    It does not seem legal if the management company is telling you that it is going to make the security deposit deductions even without seeing the condition of the unit.

    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.

  2. Frank Chen is correct. The management company should examine the condition of the property before they attempt to deduct from your security deposit. And for additional supporting legal references, please see

    Note specifically that a California lease provision that attempts to give the landlord the power to deduct these items automatically may be challenged under California Civil Code Section 1950.5(m), which states that a rental agreement can never state that a security deposit is "nonrefundable."

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