California Security Deposit Laws

While the warm sun, sparkling ocean water, and the array of scenic mountains makes most people want to call the Golden State home, the astronomical rents for these places can make living in this beautiful state almost impossible. After tacking on the cost of a security deposit, just getting into the door of your dream home in California can seem more fleeting than the career of a child actor. While rent control is only a reality in certain cities, California security deposit laws do prevent landlords from charging exorbitant amounts for these initial deposits. This is a quick summary of the security deposit laws in California.

Tenant Rights Under California Security Deposit Laws

A common problem that many tenants face with landlords is how to receive a security deposit after the tenancy has ended. California law sets specific rules that landlords must follow when returning and deducting any money from a tenant's security deposit. The following table outlines the specifics of California security deposit laws.

Code Sections

California Code - Section 1950.5: Security For A Rental Agreement For Residential Property

Security Deposit Limits

Under California law, there are limits on the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit.

  • Residential property without furniture: Security deposit may equal 2 times the rent.

  • Furnished residence: Landlord may charge up to 3 times the rent.

  • Commercial property: No Limit

Return of the Security Deposit

According to California security deposit laws, after a tenancy is terminated, a landlord has 21 days to return the tenant's deposit in full. If a landlord does not return the deposit within this time period he or she must mail or personally give to the tenant:

  • A written letter explaining why all or part of the deposit is being withheld,

  • An itemized list of each of the deductions,

  • Any remaining refund of the tenant's deposit, and

  • Copies of receipts for the charges/deductions, unless repairs cost less than $126 or the tenant waives his or her right to get the receipts.

Deduction From Security Deposit

California law states that a landlord can deduct from the tenant's security deposit:

  • The cost of fixing any damages to the property caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests, not including ordinary wear and tear.

  • The cost of cleaning the unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in.

  • Unpaid rent.

Security Deposit Disputes

The tenant can sue the landlord in small claims court if the total amount sued for is $10,000 or less. The tenant and landlord can also use a mediation program to try to resolve their dispute out of court.

If you believe that your security deposit rights have been violated and wish to seek further legal assistance, FindLaw can help you locate a California landlord/tenant attorney. Explore FindLaw to learn more about your security deposit and your landlord/tenant rights.

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