I had a heated argument with my landlord when I moved out of my apartment. She claimed she could charge me for wear and tear to my apartment. I told her she couldn't and that was against the law. She responded that she didn't care about the law and this was her apartment and she could charge whatever she wants. When it comes to her apartment it's her law. Later, she said she would return my deposit. I didn't receive it for two weeks so I sent an email asking about it. She said she would send it but never did. After 24 days I wrote a demand letter and sent it to her certified mail. She never responded. I waited over a week and then started a small claims action. After incurring filing and service fees I received my refund after 37 days. Can I get a judgment against her?
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Under CA law the landlord has to return the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out. If she fails to comply, you can sue her. However, to prevail on a claim of punitive damages, you have to prove that she acted in bad faith. If you want a legal opinion of whether or not the facts in your case constitute bad faith or not, I suggest you contact a local landlord-tenant attorney.
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Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
You have to show your landlord's malice in withholding the deposit. This is easier to do under CCP section 1174 than in a typical tort case. (Civil Code 3294) The statutory damages are up to $600. So, you could go for it in small claims if you haven't dismissed the the action yet. It will really depend on the judge whether you get those damages and your costs or not. An attorney can never tell you the outcome - The judge could award you all of it or throw out your claim.
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