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Did I have legal right to withhold most of security deposit?

Sacramento, CA |

We didn't get the keys until 8 pm. They patched nail holes with the wrong color paint. Our walls were basically polka dotted. Charged them 30/hr per person (myself and husband) plus supplies to paint master bedroom and living room. Also, 3 hours of yard work at 30/hr x1 person.. They left a water bill behind which I deducted and they did not have carpets professionally cleaned as I requested being I let them have pets. They had Direct TV install satalites and they drilled thru garage wall into kitchen wall (unauthorized) for an outlet which the house was bought prewired for cable. I received a $950 estimate for damage to cost to remove wires and satalites and repair wall. Estimate and damage exceeded their deposit. Being that I felt they were good tenants I returned only $250 vs nothing

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

The main purpose of the security deposit is to protect you from expenses incurred by tenants. If the costs of repair amounted to the total amount of the deposit, then yes, you could have kept all of it.

Hope this helps!

Armen Taslakian. 818. 937.3590. www.TaslakianLaw.com. Note: Armen Taslakian is an attorney licensed in the State of California. The answer is provided for informational use only. One should not act or refrain to act solely based on the information provided. No attorney/client relationship is created unless an Agreement is signed by the attorney and the client.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

Must the repairs be made or if I choose to repair at a later date am I entitled to keep deposit now in payment for the damages?

Armen Taslakian

Armen Taslakian

Posted

Up to 21 calendar days after the tenant has vacated the premises, you must provide the tenant with an itemized deduction of all repairs made and security deposit amount expended toward such repairs. You must also furnish the tenant with receipts. If the repairs cannot be made within 21 days, you may give him an itemized estimate of the repairs to be made. Hope this helps!

Asker

Posted

Thank you it does :)

Posted

I am not sure what not getting the keys until 8 p.m. had to do with the security deposit. If $30 hourly is reasonable, then you can charge them that.

The security deposit can only be used for cleaning, repairs, and unpaid rent. Unless the water bill is included in rent, that amount does not properly come out of the security deposit. Otherwise, the rest looks fine.

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1 comment

Asker

Posted

Thank you. Yes, the tenants were required to pay the water bill. So, estimates from a licensed contractor can be deducted even if the work hasn't been completed?

Posted

I'm not sure how much you kept after returning the $250. If you kept less than $950, for example, that seems fine. But if you kept $2500, that might be a different story. It depends on how much the security deposit was.

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7 comments

Asker

Posted

Security deposit was 1250. Damages and estimates exceedes that by 600. Out of good will still returned 250 to them

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Posted

Ah, then keeping $1000 seems not only reasonable but generous, especially in view of the $950 repair estimate (if it was reasonable), which you mitigated by doing the work yourself, and the ordinary cleaning expenses. If they seek reimbursement in small claims court, I don't think it should matter that you did the work yourself since you have a repair estimate for damage. The question could revolve around whether the estimate was reasonable, but for now I think you should rest easy.

Asker

Posted

From what i read in ca civil code 1950.5 do the repairs have to be performed? Or can thw amount be kept as damages against future indeterminate repairs

Asker

Posted

Indeterminate meaning No set date for those specific repairs for which i received an estimate for

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Posted

1950 (g)(2)(a) says you can do the work yourself. Assuming all the other requirements of 1950.5 were met, such as you giving them notice of an initial inspection option and allowing them time to remedy the identified deficiencies before the final inspection, etc. (if they requested an initial inspection after getting your notice), you should be fine. If, however, they're saying you didn't comply with 1950.5, and they're determined to file suit for the security deposit, and if you didn't notice them of the initial inspection option, etc., then it might be best to return all but $125 per (g)(2)(C)(4)(A) so you don't get double-the-security damages. But again, if you complied, you should be fine.

Asker

Posted

I only sent them a detailed email requesting certain things be done in order to return their deposit. :( they were supposed to give me the keys early that day but did not get them back until 8 pm. At that time we did do a walk thru she agreed painting would be deducted from deposit. Didn't see all satalite installation damage until nxt day which is when I got an estimate.

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Stephen Scott Pearcy

Posted

I think that even if a landlord doesn't do the 1950.5 process correctly, it just means that he isn't supposed to use the security deposit to pay for the damage. Instead, that landlord would need recover his damages through court or arrange some kind of settlement agreement with the tenant. One question is whether it would be considered "bad faith" to withhold the security deposit for real damage if the notice process was defective. That's a close call and might depend on the particular judge. So, I think the choices are: 1) try to reach an agreement with the tenant, 2) wait and see if the tenant files suit, then respond by immediately returning the deposit and countersuing tenant for the damage, or 3) send the security deposit to the tenant now and file a small claims suit for the damage.

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