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Return of Security Deposit - itemization - Civil Code 1950.5

Los Angeles, CA |

It seems that according to Civil Code 1950.5 that the landlord has 21 days to send you an itemized list of what he/she is spending your security deposit on (if landlord plans on keeping any portion of the deposit), and that according to Civil Code 1950.5(l), that landlord's failure to send you an itemized list within 21 days, and/or the bad faith retention of your security deposit can result in landlord having to pay the security deposit as damages. QUESTION: Does a tenant have to try to communicate with the landlord about why he has not either returned your security deposit and/or about why he has failed to send you an itemized list of how the deposit was used, before filing suit for the return of your security deposit and treble damages????

The California Supreme Court, in Granberry v. Islay Investments, 9 Cal.4th 738, 745; 38 Cal.Rptr.2d 650, 653 (1995), held that a landlord's non-compliance with the statute requires that the landlord return the entire security deposit to the tenant, but seemingly can still try to prove they have a right to keep some or all of the security deposit in Court....however, it still would not save the landlord from the possibility of treble damages for the bad faith retention of tenant's security deposit. Also, the landlord has the burden of proof, to prove the reasonableness of the amounts claimed when attempting to retain any portion of the security deposit. CC 1950.5(l).

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Attorney answers 1


There is no absolute requirement that the tenant contact the former landlord before suing. However, to set up the landlord for bad faith retention penalties, it always helps to prove that the tenant tried contacting the landlord beforehand.

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 for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

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