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CA landlord tenant laws, security deposit for painting

Sacramento, CA |

I am a tenant in California, and will be moving out of my current home, which I rented for 20 months through a property management company. After giving my thirty-day termination, I had to hassle the company to give me move-out instructions. They finally emailed me a copy, of which I disagree with one aspect. The form states "Painting is based upon a three year life span. If you live in the property less than three years, you will be charged for a prorated share of the painting." I do not feel as though I should be charged for painting. There is no damage whatsoever to the walls, and the place was NOT painted before we moved in. I do not see anything stating this in the rental agreement either. Is this fair in the state of California? I left a very large security deposit and would like to see it all back.

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Attorney answers 2


Your landlord may not deduct for "ordinary wear and tear." If you caused no damage to the paint, then they cannot lawfully take this money out of your security deposit.

If they refuse to be reasonable with you, then I would advise you to bring them to small claims court.


California Civil Code Section 1950.5 governs security deposits in the state of California, but if your rental unit is under rent control you may have additional protections beyond those stated in this article.

California Civil Code Section 1950.5 only permits a landlord to use a tenant's security deposit to pay for the costs of: (1) unpaid rent; (2) cleaning the rental unit after you vacate (but only to what it was before you moved in) ; (3) repairing damage caused by the tenant that goes beyond normal wear and tear; and (4) if provided in the lease, replacing keys, laundry cards, garage openers, etc. If a tenant returns the rental in substantially the same condition in which it was rented (less reasonable wear and tear), the landlord must return the entire security deposit. A landlord cannot deduct for painting, steam cleaning the carpets, or replacing the carpets, unless the tenant damage that exceeds ordinary wear and tear. Before moving in and out of a rental, all tenants would be well advised to take a lot of pictures and to have them immediately developed to prove when they were taken.

California Civil Code Section 1950.5(g)(2) requires all California landlords to return a tenant's security deposit within 21 days of move-out either in full, or partially. If any deductions are taken from the tenant's security deposit, the partial refund check must be accompanied by: (1) a written itemized statement that lists the amounts deducted from the security deposit and the reasons for the deductions, and (2) if the deduction exceeds $126, copies of receipts for the charges incurred to repair or clean the unit.

If the security deposit is not returned within 21 days, if the tenant disagrees with the amounts deducted, or if the tenant did not receive an itemization accompanied by receipts, the tenant should send a letter to the landlord via certified mail return receipt requested. If the landlord does not respond within a reasonable time (7 to 10 days), the tenant should then 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). That is 3x time the amount of the security deposit paid.

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.



I have a question regarding the life expectancy of paint. I was charged recently for painting on my former unit because according to my former landlord, I only lived there for three years and six months and she said the rule is four years to consider normal wear and tear regarding painting. Please advise me on which is correct.



I signed an agreement with the landlord that i would cover the cost of painting when leaving. Does this agreement hold up over the tenants rights?

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