This is a simple case of a landlord failing to return a security deposit to the tenant within the proscribed time period.
Identification of the Parties
I am (or we are) the tenant(s) and the defendant (or defendants) are the landlord (or owner) of the property.
We had a lease for renting the property located at__________. If you turn to exhibit 1, you can see the lease.
All evidence should be contained in a trial binder. Create three of them (one for the court/judge; one for you; one for the defendant). This is generally a 3-ring binder, with index tabs. The Plaintiff is generally letters (A-Z) whereas the Defendant is generally numbers (1-25.)
Notice of Intent to Vacate
Notice was given that we would be moving out of the property on __________. If you turn to Exhibit (2?) you can see a copy of the notice and the date it was given.
Pre-Move Out Inspection
We requested that a pre-move out inspection be given
A) If it was given and you have documents, show them to the judge now. If it was given on the notice of intent to vacate, be sure to point this out.
B) If you do not have documents, move to the next section.
C) If an inspection was not given, state why not (landlord refused, never contacted us, etc.).
We moved out of the property on ___________.
A) If you have an invoice showing when vacate, show this to the judge as the next exhibit (e.g. moving truck, moving company receipt, etc.).
Failure To Return Deposit
The landlord did not return any of the security deposit
A) If the landlord returned less than the full amount of the security deposit, show the judge, as another exhibit, the envelope with a postmark on it.
B) Also show the judge, as another exhibit, all of the commercial receipts for services rendered to clean/repair the property.
C) If there are no receipts, be sure to tell the judge this.
D) If there was no letter indicating why the deposit was not returned, be sure to tell the judge this.
Time Frame To Return Deposit pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code 1950.5
Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1950.5, a landlord MUST return the security deposit within 21 days after a tenant moves out.
A) If less than the full amount is returned, the landlord must include receipts from vendors indicating why the less than full amount was returned.
Landlord did not Comply with the Law!!!
Here, the landlord did not comply with the law as the security deposit was not returned (or less than the full amount was returned, or it was not returned within 21 days).
Statutory Damages Are Available
Furthermore, pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1950.5, the court may award, in addition to actual damages, statutory damages up to twice the amount of the security deposit plus any amount unreturned.
Statutory Damages Should be Applied and How
Here, my security deposit was $______ (as can be seen on the lease). I received $_____back from the landlord. Therefore, my actual and statutory damages amount to $________.
Attorney's Fees (if applicable)
Lastly, I consulted with a lawyer to assist me in this matter. I was charged $??? for these services. As exhibit ___, you can see the bill.
Under California law, the landlord has not complied with the law, and as a result, I am entitled to be compensated for their violation.
Very often the party that talks the most end up losing. What was written above was short, sweet, says EXACTLY what needs to be said, and establishes why you should be the prevailing party.
It is not perfect and will not work 100% of the time, but it gives you (the Plaintiff) an idea of how to proceed. It also gives the judge the impression that you know what is going on and that you are being respectful of the court's time.
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