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What is normal wear and tear defined as in the state of California?

Modesto, CA |

I have been renting a house for the past four years, and my landlord has short sold the house, and now is trying to keep my deposit due to normal wear and tear. What am I responsible for? For example, on a few occasions while vacuuming, the carpet threads were ripped and sucked up by the vacuum. I have heard that after a certain amount of time renting, you can no longer be held accountable for repainting or carpet cleaning expenses. Is this true and what is the time frame, if any. Also legally can my landlord keep any of the deposit since they will not be making of the repairs, since the house was sold "as is"?

Attorney Answers 1

Posted

You can take a look at the discussion (half way down the blue box) on this link:

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml

Basically, if you've lived there for four years, the landlord must give you a bit of leeway on wear and tear.

However, the landlord is not required to actually effectuate the repairs in order to deduct from the security deposit.

When did you move out? 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.

A tenant who does not receive a return of the security deposit from the landlord will often need to sue the landlord in small claims court to get the security deposit back. However, the risk is that the landlord will likely countersue the tenant for damages above and beyond what the security deposit covered.

According to the California Supreme Court decision in the case of Granberry v. Islay Investments (1995) 9 Cal.4th 738, 745, after the 21 days have transpired, the landlord loses the right to keep any of the security deposit and must return the entire deposit to the tenant.

Also, if the tenant proves to the court that the landlord acted in "bad faith" in refusing to return your security deposit, the court can order the landlord to pay the tenant the amount of the improperly withheld deposit, plus up to twice the amount of the security deposit as a "bad faith" penalty. (Civil Code Section 1950.5(l).)

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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