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.