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How can I get a copy of my lease?

Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA |

Hello all,

I moved into an apartment well over 20 years ago (35 to be exact) At the time I signed a lease but then never renewed it but stayed on as a month to month tenant. When I first moved in I paid first, last and deposit. I am now moving out and there is a strong possibility that I may not get my deposit back. Secondly, I would like not to pay for the last month's rent. My thinking is the amount that I paid well over 30 years ago, should accrue interest should it not, and in today's terms that initial money plus interest should well over cover my last month's rent. Lastly, how can I go about getting a copy of my lease. I think that the building has changed owners. I am making the checks to a management company. Thanks in advance. Karine

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Interesting situation.

    First, your last month's rent is probably already paid. It is the landlord's responsibility to require any deposit of an increase your last month's rent. Thus, so long as you provide your written notice to terminate the tenancy before the landlord requires you to increase the last month's rent deposit, you should be in the clear. Note however that the California law is unsettled on this question, as this guide helps show: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/moving-out.shtml (note distinction between the wording "last month's rent" and "security for last month's rent"). If the landlord drafted the lease thirty years ago, then there is a California rule of contract interpretation that says any ambiguity today should be resolved in your favor.

    Second, you may be entitled to interest on the security deposit, either by contract or by law. As to the latter, this would be governed by any applicable ordinances of your city (typically rent control) rather than the law of California. Are you in a rent control area: http://dca.lacounty.gov/tsSecurityDeposits.html

    Third, have you already asked the landlord for a copy of the lease? If the document cannot be found, then its 'essential terms' may be reconstructed by oral testimony. Your testimony might be the only and best evidence of the lease terms if you are the only one with personal knowledge. It might be reasonable to presume the lease terms were quite favorable to you because you did choose to live there 30-years.

    Fourth, regarding the security deposit, determining what is reasonable "wear and tear" after 30-years will be very specific to your unique property situation, including repairs and improvements over the years.

    Fun fact: Imagine if you had made your security deposit with an ounce of gold; a pleasant surprise to receive that back today!


  2. the new landlord has an obligation to furnish you with a copy of the original lease and is responsible for furnishing you with your deposit back less any money being withheld for damage.

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