I moved out of the apartment on 3/19/12. It has been over 21 days and still no deposit. They haven't even tried to contact me. I called today to ask about it and she said the management company handles the deposits. She gave me the name of the company and the phone number but when I try to call, they don't answer. I left a message but I'm starting to doubt they'll ever get back to me.
I read somewhere about a letter for demand for payment. I wouldn't mind sending one but I can't get a hold of the company to get their address. A Google search doesn't give me any results either. Can I just skip the demand for payment letter and go straight to small claims court? How would I go about doing that and what would I need?
It is not absolutely essential for you to first send a demand letter before filing in small claims court, but it would certainly help you recover possible bad faith retention penalties against your landlord (see discussion below).
The landlord is responsible for the actions of the management company, so it is not imperative that you locate the management company. You can write your demand letter to the landlord, and if necessary, sue the landlord.
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).)
The jurisdictional limit for small claims court cases in California went up to $10,000 as of January 1, 2012.
To find out how to file a small claims court action, see:
Frank W. Chen is licensed to practice law in the State of California. 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.
Per Civil Code section 1950.5 you are entitled to your security deposit back. Since they are dragging their feet on this, you need to send a letter to the management company and/ or the landlord. Tell them that the time period has past. Remind them that under section 1950.5 that you are entitled to a refund of the full depaoti (since they haven't given a accounting). Tell them they have a dealline ( usually two weeks is what I recommend). If they don't comply with the deadline, tell them you will have no choice but to take them to court. Make are you keep a copy of the letter. I would also strongly recommend you send it certified mail or with return receipt requested so that you have proof.
If they do not give you the money, then you are entitled to take the case to court. Most security deposits do not exceed the $7500 maximum of small claims court. Therefore, you would file your case there. Remember, in addition to the donut, you can also seek statutory damages for the landlord's misconduct in withholding your money.
I would not skip the demand letter. You need the proof that you actually asked and they failed to come through. Otherwise, I have seen cases where the landlord says " we tried but the tenant gave us the wrong address".
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