How much can I sue a landlord in CA Small Claims court for under these circumstances?

My wife and I moved out of an apartment in Vista at the end of September. While we received a partial refund, we were charged $450 for painting which was not required and did not go beyond "normal wear and tear" as described in the law. We were also charged about $100 for two screens which were not damaged and did not need to be replaced. I sent a demand letter (by certified mail) and received no response. My question is: Can I sue for only the $550 or can I sue for up to triple the entire deposit as though they never returned anything. I no longer live in CA and will have to make a trip down to handle this. I'm assuming I can also sue for my expenses such as a company to file the paperwork etc.

Vista, CA -

Attorney Answers (1)

Frances Miller Campbell

Frances Miller Campbell

Landlord / Tenant Lawyer - Sherman Oaks, CA
Answered

If you can prove the landlord acted "in bad faith," then you should try to obtain triple the entire deposit. Realistically, though, I do not think that most Judges will award more than the amount of money that was wrongfully withheld. Hiring a company to file the paperwork probably is not recoverable. If your lease had an attorney's fees provision ,if you can prove you consulted with an attorney to help you prepare the lawsuit, then that money would also be recoverable.

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