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Using an attorney’s aid to receive your security deposit

If you rented a home, your landlord may have accepted a security deposit upon your move-in. The deposit likely would have covered damage expenses that you may cause during your time of living on his or her residential property. Yet upon the conclusion of your rental agreement, you do not receive your security deposit back.

Both tenants and landlords should work to avoid disputes regarding security deposits. Though your landlord may claim that they rightfully withheld your security deposit, you may take certain steps to retrieve your rightful deposit.

Security deposit returns

In California, your landlord must take action regarding your security deposit within 21 days after you move out of their residential property.

The landlord must either:

  • Return your deposit in full; or
  • Mail or personally give the tenant:
    1. A written letter explaining why he or she is keeping some or all of the deposit
    2. An itemized list of deductions from the deposit, and
    3. Copies of the receipts for the deductions

Deducting certain items is only legal when including:

  • The cost of fixing damages caused by you or your guests (not including “normal wear and tear”)
  • The cost of cleaning the unit or restoring the unit to the same state of cleanliness upon move-in
  • Unpaid rent

Your landlord’s responsibility and an attorney’s aid

If your landlord refuses to return your security deposit or provide documentation regarding why you will not receive your deposit within 21 days, you may want to begin to contact your landlord.

According to California law, you may provide a written letter to your landlord requesting the payment and identifying reasons that you should receive your deposit. By using an attorney to help draft the letter, your notice will be both accurate and use correct terms.

If you and your landlord cannot agree to a security deposit amount, you may wish to file a lawsuit. In California, you have the ability to sue for:

  • Your deposit amount
  • Twice the amount of the security deposit in damages

If you feel strongly that your security deposit was taken unethically, you may wish to contact an attorney about your rights. You may have the ability to not only retrieve your security deposit but also obtain damages.

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