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Can landlord charge $200 in cleaning fees even if the place was left clean?

North Hollywood, CA |

I was living in a 2 bdrm apt for 3 yrs. Due to financial restraints, I needed to downsize. to a 1 bdrm. They rolled over my security deposit to the new place but are deducting $200 for cleaning. I lived in the 2 bdrm for just over 3 yrs. and left the place cleaned and undamaged. I even paid someone to clean it because I was busy with everything else. I feel $200 is excessive. I don't think they should charge me since I resided for more than 3 yrs. especially since I left it clean & with absolutely nothing left behind. The only thing was the carpet that showed quite the wear and tear but I was told I wasn't going to be charged for the carpet (which they didn't) because they were going to be putting down hardwood flooring for the new tenants. I'm awaiting to talk with the management company

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Attorney answers 3


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 posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.



Follow up: The manager left at my door (20 or 21 days exact of moving out of the old unit) what they are calling a "good faith" estimate of the deductions. All it had on it was what my sec. deposit was. then on a second line stating $200 deduction for cleaning fee and another deduction for a supposed late fee that they say I had but was not mentioned was "carrying over" from May 2010. My first question, can they legally try to collect $60 late fee from that long ago? Especially not having mentioned or tried to collect it from me before now. I don't know if I mentioned it but the managers just recently changed so in May of 2010 it was the responsibility of the other mgr. to advise me of a late fee being applied. I still haven't checked my records to see if it is valid. But I don't think it's right or legal for them to want to collect it now, 2 1/2 yrs later. I reached out to the management company on the 4th of February because the manager said that the manager of the company was on maternity leave and said we would address the issue at the beginning of the year. They never reached out to me. I had to call them and ask for the invoice of the cleaning service that cleaned my old unit. They also had some pictures that I will say showed some areas that were not cleaned by the lady i hired to do it. But my position with the management company as to why I shouldn't have the $200 deducted is because 1.) The manager did not do the preliminary walk through as I told them I was entitled to. Which would have given me the opportunity to take care of the areas they were going to deduct for. One was that they pulled out the stove. And yes, I will say it was definitely dirty underneath. But I have never heard of such a thing. I was there for 3 years. Had I known that was something they were going to look at I would have made sure it as cleaned. 2.) There was no walk through by the bldg. manager after I moved out. Within a day or 2 they had workers enter the premises and begin doing work to the unit. The guys went in to pull the rug and lay out hardwood floors. So I don't know what they did while in there. The images showed a dirty toilet in one of the bathroom's that I know for certain was cleaned because I watched the lady I hired, down on all fours scrubbing everything. I have been speaking with the management company about this and she's tried to stay firm in charging me the $200. The invoice shows they were charged $375 but nonetheless the invoice with the exact accounts of what they were charging for was not provided to me till the 4th of Feb when I asked her to email it to me. The cleaning service came in and did the cleaning AFTER the workers were done pulling the rug and laying the hardwood flooring. After a lengthy conversation back and forth on it she said she would go to the owner and ask what they could do and she then got back to me by email and said "before I tell you what my boss said and what we can do for you, let me ask you a question. If I showed you the images attached and said to you the place was professionally cleaned, would you accept it?" I answered as best as I could taking into account ALL the circumstances involved. And I have been respectful all through out all of this. She then emails me back and says "I am not trying to be difficult either but you did not answer my question" I find it unfair that she is holding the information on a resolution to this from me till she gets the answer she wants to hear. Is it against my legal rights as a tenant? I responded that I answered as best as I could and was sorry she didn't agree or accept my answer but would like to just move forward. And then asked her if she could please tell me how they want to resolve this. I am now awaiting her response. Do they have a leg to stand on given that there was no walk through prior to or after my moving out. And given that they had workers come in to do work. THEN having the cleaning service come in after the fact? Also, considering that I wasn't provided the itemized invoice of the cleaning service till now? I moved out N


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 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.

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