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Return of security deposit >21 days if special language in rental agreement?

Pasadena, CA |

CA Civil Code § 1950.5(f) states that the landlord must return security deposit within 21 days. Our landlord crossed that part out in the rental agreement we signed and instead wrote "after all utility & repair bills are received by owner." Since we signed that agreement, does it trump the law, meaning, in effect, that the landlord can take as long as any repairs may take to return our deposit?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. I would argue that the provision which attempts to change the statutory requirements is probably void as against public policy. It also might depend on whether he made the change after you signed. If that is the case, then you technically never agreed to it, and probably could not be held to it.
    But, that might not stop the landlord from trying to enforce that provision.
    You may end up having to fight this out in court, so to make your case as strong as possible, send written notice via certified mail to the landlord setting forth your last day, where your deposit check can be mailed to, and that you never agreed to that provision (assuming that he added that after you signed).
    If you have the ability to get a final utility bill, do that also and give it to the landlord.

  2. No. You cannot waive and the landlord cannot alter your rights under Civil Code 1950.5.

  3. No, the landlord cannot make you waive your rights under California Civil Code section 1950.5. See:

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

  4. I agree with the other attorneys. However, you are allowed to send a reasonable estimate and then amend the notice if need be. You should indicate that on the notice. As a practical matter I have seen judges allow landlords to retain the deposit even when it was beyond the required time. But the provision to waive the period is most likely not valid for the reasons stated. This should be used as general information and not considered legal advice. It is always best to consult an attorney regarding your specific case.

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