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What Does A California Landlord Need to Do When Returning A Tenant's Security Deposit?

Posted by attorney Douglas Wright

A landlord has 21 days to to either send the tenant a full refund of the security deposit, or provide an itemized statement that lists the amounts of any deductions for the security deposit and the reasons for the deductions. The rules regarding the itemized statement are very particular.

  • Send Receipts: The landlord must send the tenant copies of receipts for the charges that the landlord incurred to repair or clean the rental unit that were deducted from the security deposit.
  • If The Landlord or Landlord's Employees Did The Work: The itemized statement must describe the work performed, including the time spent and the hourly rate charged. The hourly rate must be reasonable.
  • If Another Person or Business Did The Work: The landlord must provide the tenant with copies of the person's or businesses' invoice or receipt. The landlord must provide the person's or businesses' name, address, and telephone number on the invoice or receipt, or in the itemized statement.
  • If The Landlord Deducted For Materials Or Supplies: The landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the invoice or receipt. If the item used to repair or clean the unit is something that the landlord purchases regularly or in bulk, the landlord must reasonably document the item's cost.
  • Landlord's Good Faith Estimate Of Charges: The landlord is allowed to make a good faith estimate of charges and include the estimate in the itemized statement in two situations: (1) the repair is being done by the landlord or an employee and cannot be reasonably be completed within 21 days, or (2) services or materials are being supplied by another person or business and the landlord does not have the invoice or receipt within 21 days. In either situation, the landlord may deduct the estimated amount from the security deposit. In the second situation, the landlord must include the name, address and telephone number of the person supplying the services or materials. Within 14 calendar days after completing the repairs or receiving the invoice or receipt, the landlord must mail or deliver to the tenant a correct itemized statement, the invoices and receipts, and any refund to which the tenant is entitled.
  • When Are Copies Of Receipts, Invoices, or Good Faith Estimate Not Required: The landlord is not required to send you copies of invoices or receipts, or a good faith estimate, if the repairs or cleaning costs less than $126.00 or if the tenant waived the right to receive them. However, even if the repairs cost less than $126.00 or the tenant waives the right to receive copies of the receipts, the landlord must still send the tenant an itemized statement 21 days or less after the tenant moves.

Additional resources provided by the author

Douglas A. Wright is a partner with Wright, Ryan & Anderson, A Professional Law Corporation. Doug owns and operates, an online eviction service representing property owners and managers throughout California. Contact Mr. Wright at (866) 236-3989 or visit

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