When Can A Landlord Withhold A Security Deposit? – San Diego Landlord-Tenant Attorney

One of the most common disagreements between landlords and tenants concerns the return of security deposits.  California has very strict rules regarding the return of security deposits.  Specifically, a landlord may apply a tenant’s security deposit for four purposes:

  1. For unpaid rent;
  2. For cleaning the rental unit after the tenant has moved out;
  3. For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear; and
  4. If the rental agreement allows for it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property other than because of normal wear and tear.

Of course, there are exceptions to the above rules.  For example, a landlord may apply a security deposit to clean a rental unit, but only to the extent to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant moved in.  Additionally, a security deposit cannot be used to repair defects in the unit which existed when the tenant moved in.  As a result, it is very important for tenants to be thorough when they complete their move-in inspections. 

It is worth noting that there are many additional rules regarding how a landlord must handle a tenant’s security deposit, including deadlines on refunding the security deposit and requirements if the landlord elects to apply the security deposit for any of the above purposes. If you have any questions regarding the handling of a security deposit, please contact us at the VC Law Group at info@thevclawgroup.com or 858.519.7333 to discuss your situation.