Skip to main content

How doI get my security deposit back?

San Diego, CA |

We moved out of a rental, the home owner defaulted on his payments and the bank took reposession of the home while we were there. So, the bank is currently the legal owner. The property manager is wanting to hold onto the security deopsit. The person that used to be the home owner is un responsive to the property manager. How can we get our security deposit back?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 1


You will probably have to sue in small claims court to get your deposit back. 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.

Your former landlord/property manager should return your security deposit (or should have transferred it to the bank). Otherwise, the bank is jointly liable for returning your security deposit.

California Civil Code section 1950.5 (h) and (j) cover this:

" (h) Upon termination of the landlord's interest in the premises,
whether by sale, assignment, death, appointment of receiver or
otherwise, the landlord or the landlord's agent shall, within a
reasonable time, do one of the following acts, either of which shall
relieve the landlord of further liability with respect to the
security held:
(1) Transfer the portion of the security remaining after any
lawful deductions made under subdivision (e) to the landlord's
successor in interest. The landlord shall thereafter notify the
tenant by personal delivery or by first-class mail, postage prepaid,
of the transfer, of any claims made against the security, of the
amount of the security deposited, and of the names of the successors
in interest, their address, and their telephone number. If the notice
to the tenant is made by personal delivery, the tenant shall
acknowledge receipt of the notice and sign his or her name on the
landlord's copy of the notice.
(2) Return the portion of the security remaining after any lawful
deductions made under subdivision (e) to the tenant, together with an
accounting as provided in subdivision (g).
(i) Prior to the voluntary transfer of a landlord's interest in
the premises, the landlord shall deliver to the landlord's successor
in interest a written statement indicating the following:
(1) The security remaining after any lawful deductions are made.
(2) An itemization of any lawful deductions from any security
(3) His or her election under paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision
This subdivision does not affect the validity of title to the real
property transferred in violation of this subdivision.
(j) In the event of noncompliance with subdivision (h), the
landlord's successors in interest shall be jointly and severally
liable with the landlord for repayment of the security, or that
portion thereof to which the tenant is entitled, when and as provided
in subdivisions (e) and (g). A successor in interest of a landlord
may not require the tenant to post any security to replace that
amount not transferred to the tenant or successors in interest as
provided in subdivision (h), unless and until the successor in
interest first makes restitution of the initial security as provided
in paragraph (2) of subdivision (h) or provides the tenant with an
accounting as provided in subdivision (g).
This subdivision does not preclude a successor in interest from
recovering from the tenant compensatory damages that are in excess of
the security received from the landlord previously paid by the
tenant to the landlord.
Notwithstanding this subdivision, if, upon inquiry and reasonable
investigation, a landlord's successor in interest has a good faith
belief that the lawfully remaining security deposit is transferred to
him or her or returned to the tenant pursuant to subdivision (h), he
or she is not liable for damages as provided in subdivision (l), or
any security not transferred pursuant to subdivision (h)."

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.



Thank you for your response. What happens if the landlord goes over the 21 days and gives me an itemized list later? Am I entitled to my full deposit? He keeps procrastinating and the deposit is being held by the landlord.

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen


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.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer