I live in California. My last landlord kept the security deposit claiming that we failed to send her a 30-day notice of intent to vacate. We had originally signed a year lease, which never stated such a notice was necessary. She then forged our signatures on a fake month to month lease. This occurred almost a year ago, but I have all the documents to prove she committed the crime. How should I proceed in this situation?
Since forgery is a crime, you could start by calling the police and filling out a police report. The police can then turn the report over to the District Attorney who would make a decision as to whether to prosecute. As for your remedies against your landlord, given that your security deposit is likely a small amount, you might want to consider suing in small claims court. You can obtain up to $7,500 in small claims court in California, and do not need a lawyer. (In fact, lawyers are not permitted to represent clients in small claims actions.) The rules for filing a small claims action can be found online at virtually every county courthouse's website.
Putting the forgery aside, all tenants in California are required to give their landlord's 30 days written notice prior to move out. However, if the landlord re-rented the unit within 30 days the landlord is not permitted to withhold your security deposit.
In addition, all landlords in California are required to provide their tenants with an itemization of the deductions taken from their security deposit and if the deductions exceed $150, the receipts evidencing payment.
If you disagree with the amounts withheld on the security deposit you can file a claim in Small Claims Court for the actual security deposit withheld and statutory damages of two times that amount pursuant to California Civil Code 1950(i). Consider meeting with an attorney prior to filing for advice on preparation and presentation of your claim.
Disclaimer. Ms. Marsh is an attorney licensed to practice in California. The information posted above is for general information, does not constitute professional legal advice, and does not create an attorney client relationship.