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How doI get my security deposit back?

San Diego, CA |

We moved out of a rental, the home owner defaulted on his payments and the bank took reposession of the home while we were there. So, the bank is currently the legal owner. The property manager is wanting to hold onto the security deopsit. The person that used to be the home owner is un responsive to the property manager. How can we get our security deposit back?

Attorney Answers 1

  1. You will probably have to sue in small claims court to get your deposit back. 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.

    Your former landlord/property manager should return your security deposit (or should have transferred it to the bank). Otherwise, the bank is jointly liable for returning your security deposit.

    California Civil Code section 1950.5 (h) and (j) cover this:

    " (h) Upon termination of the landlord's interest in the premises,
    whether by sale, assignment, death, appointment of receiver or
    otherwise, the landlord or the landlord's agent shall, within a
    reasonable time, do one of the following acts, either of which shall
    relieve the landlord of further liability with respect to the
    security held:
    (1) Transfer the portion of the security remaining after any
    lawful deductions made under subdivision (e) to the landlord's
    successor in interest. The landlord shall thereafter notify the
    tenant by personal delivery or by first-class mail, postage prepaid,
    of the transfer, of any claims made against the security, of the
    amount of the security deposited, and of the names of the successors
    in interest, their address, and their telephone number. If the notice
    to the tenant is made by personal delivery, the tenant shall
    acknowledge receipt of the notice and sign his or her name on the
    landlord's copy of the notice.
    (2) Return the portion of the security remaining after any lawful
    deductions made under subdivision (e) to the tenant, together with an
    accounting as provided in subdivision (g).
    (i) Prior to the voluntary transfer of a landlord's interest in
    the premises, the landlord shall deliver to the landlord's successor
    in interest a written statement indicating the following:
    (1) The security remaining after any lawful deductions are made.
    (2) An itemization of any lawful deductions from any security
    (3) His or her election under paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision
    This subdivision does not affect the validity of title to the real
    property transferred in violation of this subdivision.
    (j) In the event of noncompliance with subdivision (h), the
    landlord's successors in interest shall be jointly and severally
    liable with the landlord for repayment of the security, or that
    portion thereof to which the tenant is entitled, when and as provided
    in subdivisions (e) and (g). A successor in interest of a landlord
    may not require the tenant to post any security to replace that
    amount not transferred to the tenant or successors in interest as
    provided in subdivision (h), unless and until the successor in
    interest first makes restitution of the initial security as provided
    in paragraph (2) of subdivision (h) or provides the tenant with an
    accounting as provided in subdivision (g).
    This subdivision does not preclude a successor in interest from
    recovering from the tenant compensatory damages that are in excess of
    the security received from the landlord previously paid by the
    tenant to the landlord.
    Notwithstanding this subdivision, if, upon inquiry and reasonable
    investigation, a landlord's successor in interest has a good faith
    belief that the lawfully remaining security deposit is transferred to
    him or her or returned to the tenant pursuant to subdivision (h), he
    or she is not liable for damages as provided in subdivision (l), or
    any security not transferred pursuant to subdivision (h)."

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

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