Luckily for Californians who frequently rent, our state is what might be referred to as "renter friendly." The state of California affords a number of protections for tenants. If you are the owner of a rental property and frequently deal with residential and/or commercial leases, it is a very good idea to be well versed in the rights of renters so that you can protect your investment and yourself by being compliant with requirements.
One of the most common disputes between a landlord and a tenant is the security deposit. While many renters are unaware of their legal rights regarding security deposits, it will not bode well for landlords/property owners to disregard these rights or attempt to find loopholes to get around compliance.
Rights of Tenants in Regard to Security Deposits:
- The Amount of the Security Deposit is Limited - Almost any residential lease agreement in California will include a security deposit provision. This is commonly specified as one month's rent, but it is limited to no more than two month's rent for an unfurnished property and no more than three month's rent for a furnished property.
- Use of the Security Deposit is Governed - California Civil Code Section 1950.5(b), (e) states that the landlord/property owner can only use the security deposit received from the tenant for certain purposes: unpaid rent, cleaning after the tenant moves out (but only to make the unit as clean as when the tenant moved on to the property), damage repair (outside normal wear and tear and caused by tenant or tenant guest), restoring/replacing furniture in furnished units (when the lease agreement allows it), and replacement of keys or other items of personal property (outside normal wear and tear and when the lease agreement allows it).
- Security Deposit Return - According to California Law, landlords are required to provide tenants with their returned security deposit within 21 days from the date they depart the premises unless they provide an itemized statement listing detailed deductions.
Failing to comply with the requirements will result in complications for landlords and homeowners. Even if you feel justified in your actions, the law is on the side of the side of the tenant if you fail to comply with the above referenced stipulations. The best plan of action is to design your lease agreements carefully, including as many protections for yourself and the property as possible while providing the tenant with all of their legal rights in accordance with California law.
If you have questions regarding how to comply with law regarding tenant rights while still protecting yourself and your property, please get in touch with the business and real estate attorneys at The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP. We can assist you in determining if there are any problem areas in your current lease agreements.