I have rented a room in landlord's home in California for 3 months.
After i left the place, I waited the 21 legal days period to get my security deposit back, and when it did not come, I emailed the landlord. I got an email confirmation that I left the place in good shape.
Being foreigner, I cannot use checks in US dollars, so I asked to get the money wired to my bank. The landlord asked me to keep a bit of money to cover for the bank fee to process the wire. I agreed to this.
Then i had no news for several weeks, as the landlord did not answered my text messages / email anymore.
So I sent a letter to her address.
I left the place 4 months ago. Now the landlord claims that she had to cover some expenses because it smelt cigarette smoke, and smoking is a breach to my contract. The landlord also claims that a check has been sent to me (deposit - expenses) but I did not receive anything, even though I completed a form before moving in, with all my contact information, including my address in France.
I also asked the landlord to provide the invoices proving that she did had some expenses, and she did not answer.
It sounds like landlord failed to provide you the security deposit notice required by law. You should have gotten a full refund or written explanation within 21 days of moving out.
If that's what happened (or rather, did not happen), then a court would order landlord to give you a full refund. The court might also award you penalties.
Your challenge is how to act on these facts from a distance. Start by advising landlord that they must provide you a full refund or face legal action. Send msg by both email and mail, with delivery confirmation.
I am not licensed in the sate of California, so this response will have to be entirely generic as a matter of necessity.
I agree with my colleague from California; it appears as if the LL here just did not comply with the statute, and should have returned your deposit in full. Under Florida's version of this law, the tenant can now sue to recover the deposit, and attorneys fees and costs (not suggesting you sue - just that - in Florida, at least - you would have solid leverage to DEMAND, in writing the full deposit back (and this is why I agree with my colleague). I must add, however, that under the FLORIDA version of this statute ( and I admit I do not know the California version well enough to speak to it), the LL can still sue a tenant for damages (i.e., after returning the security) - just can't retain the "security" deposit to pay for them - but there's always a chance (a good chance!) the statutes are not the same; and it would be the landlord's burden (difficult/but not impossible under these facts) to prove up the damage.
My point? You'll have to consult with a good local California real estate attorney (with substantial experience in L/T law) to be sure, and sue on your behalf, if that his what he or she advises under your particular facts and circumstances. .
Hope this helps.
This communication is not intended in any way to establish an attorney-client relationship, nor provide legal advice; it is submitted by its author simply as a general comment on the facts contained in the Question posed. NOTE: This attorney contributor is NOT actively seeking new clients.
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