The $200 cleaning fee seems excessive based upon your description of the facts. Since you are still a tenant in another unit, hopefully, you will be able to talk to the management company about this.
Under California Civil Code section 1950.5, within 21 calendar days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must either send a full refund of the security deposit, or mail or personally deliver to the tenant an itemized statement that lists the amounts of any deductions from the security deposit and the reasons for the deductions, together with a refund of any amounts not deducted.
Pursuant to Civil Code section 1950.5, the landlord may only use the tenant's security deposit for four purposes:
1) For unpaid rent;
2) 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 in);
3) For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests; and
4) If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property other than because of normal wear and tear.
A tenant who does not receive a return of the security deposit from the landlord will often need to sue the landlord in small claims court to get the security deposit back. However, the risk is that the landlord will likely countersue the tenant for damages above and beyond what the security deposit covered.
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.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
They should have provided you with an itemized list of the repairs/cleaning that they had to do. $200 is pretty standard for a cleaning, but if you turned it over cleaned then they should not have kept that portion. In the end it may all depend on if you want to make waves with your property managers...
Thomas A. Schaeffer, Esq. Law Office of Juarez and Schaeffer PO Box 16216, San Diego, CA 92105 (619) 804-4327 www.jslaw.org This posting is provided for "informational 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 principals discussed here may differ substantially in individual situations or in different States.
My colleague's advice is excellent. Your good relationship with your landlord is worth its weight in gold. You are entitled to an itemized list of charges, and you can certainly try and talk to them about reducing the charge.
Landlords often automatically have a cleaning service come in to clean - I haven't seen a successful dispute of the service. In the end, if you wanted to fight the charge you would have to prepare a claim, pay to file in small claims, take a day off work to show up to a hearing... it's just not worth it for you.