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Landlords and security deposits

What a Rental Security Deposit Can and Can’t Be Used for in Redding CA

There was a time when landlords could give every vacated rental property the white glove test and keep large portions of tenant’s security deposits for the slightest infraction, those days are long gone. California rental law has tipped in the favor of tenants, and it is very specific about how and what deductions can be withheld from a security deposit. As a landlord, the best way to protect yourself is to know and understand the law and do everything by the book.

According to California rental law, there are only four reasons that landlords can withhold money from a security deposit.Law Gavel Authority Property Management Redding CA

  • Unpaid rent
  • Cleaning of the rental unit to make it as clean as it was upon move-in
  • Repair of damages beyond normal wear and tear
  • Cost of repairing or replacing furniture or property such as keys, if specified in the rental agreement or lease

Disputes about security deposit refunds are one of the biggest causes of landlord and tenant issues. The law is very specific on these issues and doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. If a tenant is on a month to month rental agreement, they are required to give the landlord a 30-day notice prior to moving. If the tenant moves without paying for the complete 30 days, the landlord can deduct the pro-rated amount of the unpaid rent from the security deposit. If the tenant owes back rent or late fees that can also be deducted.

Unfortunately, clean can mean different things to different people. Hopefully, your tenant will leave the rental unit pristine and move-in ready. Legally, they are only required to leave the unit as clean as it was when they moved in. This is sometimes referred to as broom clean. This is why good record keeping is important. Have notes or photos of the move in and move out the condition of the property. Cleaning charges have to be reasonable and fair. Keep track of the cleaning costs that you have to put into the unit after the tenant has moved. Any charges over $126 have to be itemized. You have 21 days after the tenant’s move out date to return their full deposit or an itemized list of any deductions. You can itemize your time, materials used, or fees paid to a cleaning service.

Repair of damages can be deducted as long as it is for actual damages and not normal wear and tear. Items of contention can be things like painting and carpet. A few nail holes and marks or scuffs on a wall is considered normal wear and tear. Painted walls also have a useful lifespan of 3 years. If your tenant has been in the unit for 5 years, you will probably need to repaint, and you can’t charge the tenant unless there was excessive damage such as large holes punched in the walls or something beyond normal wear and tear. Carpet also has a useful lifespan. You will have to prorate the cost of damaged carpet if the tenant has been there a number of years. If the carpet is worn from time and normal wear and tear, you can’t charge the tenant for it.

Some rental agreements or leases will specify certain charges the tenants are responsible for such as key replacement or special cases with furnished units. These charges must be specified, fair and reasonable. Remember, if a tenant files a small claims case against you, a judge will be the one deciding what is reasonable or not. It’s a good idea to carefully follow the law and try to be fair and reasonable when dealing with tenant deposits.

Hiring a professional property management company to handle your rentals in Redding CA. can save future headaches when it comes to court and tenant disputes. Get the advice you need by contacting us.  We at Authority Property Management in Redding CA would be glad to give you advice even if you are with another firm.


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Posted by: aaronrobertson on July 12, 2019