I lived in a Condo for 3.5 years and never once received the CC&R's of the HOA. The HOA does not deal with tenants so I cannot request via them. During a 7 month period dating back to a year after I first moved in, the HOA went into police mode and gave out various violations for parking, garage storage, tenant conduct etc.. The landlord never forwarded any correspondence of warnings or citations and basically ignored the HOA to attend board meetings. Our lease does not dictate to follow any HOA rules. My landlord is now withholding my security deposit after 21 days for violations dating back from June 2010 to December 2010. I still haven't received any documentation either (date, time, reason for violation). Do I have a case in Small Claims?
Yes, you can sue for the return of your security deposit in small claims court. The deduction is improper under Civil Code Section 1950.5(b),(e).
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).)
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.
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