I put in my 30 day notice to vacate and my apartment complex contacted me, stating they intended to bring in vendors to vacuum, clean carpets and paint "if necessary," and that they intended to take it out of my security deposit. It didn't sound as though they would take the actual condition of the apartment into consideration when determining how much of my deposit to withhold. Is it legal for them to "hire vendors" to "clean" an otherwise clean apartment, and then take it out of the deposit? I intend to take pictures and video of the apartment before I leave, but is there anything else I can do to protect myself in advance?
If you leave the place in the same condition as you found it when you moved in, other than normal wear and tear, then there is nothing for the landlord to deduct from your deposit. No doubt this notice that the owner would clean and paint if necessary is the same thing given to all tenants before they vacate. Yes, it is a good idea to take photos and video of the premises, and better still to arrange for an inspection with a representative of the owner before you depart, to make sure that your efforts to clean the place are sufficient. If not, the rep should tell you what is wrong and give you a chance to take care of it. You should receive a written report of any funds used and a check for the rest (or all) of your deposit, sent within 21 days of leaving, by law. Make sure they know where to send it. Good luck.
I agree with Mr. Paul. Take LOTS of photos and video. DO NOT be confrontational. Demand a pre-move-out inspection so that you know what is wrong with the place prior to your move. Then fix the items you WANT to fix. If you do not want to spackle holes in the wall, then do not. If they tell you not to, be sure to get ANY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS in writing.
If YOU hire a cleaning company or a carpet cleaning service (even one you rent from the grocery store) be sure to keep the receipt(s) and provide them to the landlord upon departure. If you do not care, then so be it.
Most likely, it seems you are headed to Small Claims. If/when the need arises, consult an attorney that knows about Small Claims law and procedure. Try: www.smallclaimsappeals.com
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Real Estate Attorney
The prior answers are excellent and spot-on. Landlords in California are required to inform their tenants of their right to request an "Initial Inspection" prior to move out. However, plenty of landlords don't do so. After the "Initial Inspection," the landlord has to give the tenants a written, itemized statement of the repairs or cleaning that the tenant should perform in order to avoid deductions from the tenant's security deposit.
After the tenant moved out, and the landlord has performed the "Final Inspection," the only deductions the landlord can make are those which were identified in the itemized statement (and not fixed by the tenant), or damage hidden by your possessions, or damage which happened after the Initial Inspection took place.
Based on what you've said above, you should absolutely insist upon an Initial Inspection. You can get more information from the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which puts out an excellent "Landlord/Tenant Handbook," which every landlord and tenant in California should have.
ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT. Of course, without having heard the whole story and reviewed the relevant documents, I can't give you advice, just my general opinion. If you're serious, you should contact a local attorney, rather than relying on any opining on the Internet. Jason L. Eliaser is licensed to practice law in California (State Bar number 248394.) This is a communication concerning my availability for professional employment within the meaning of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400(A). Viewing of this post does not constitute the provision of legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by viewing or responding to this post.