California Security Deposit Return Deadlines

California law defines how long your landlord has to return your security deposit once the lease ends and you move out. The landlord has 21 days from the date you move out to return your security deposit. If he or she withheld a portion of the deposit, the landlord must provide an itemized list of the deductions and receipts.  

Here are some guidelines on how long a landlord typically has to provide you with your security deposit return.

What Can the Landlord Withhold from My Security Deposit?

In California, the landlord can withhold all or part of your security deposit for the following reasons:

  • Unpaid Rent
  • Damage to the rental in excess of normal wear and tear
  • Cleaning costs to get the rental back to the condition it was when you moved in.

Since it will be up to you to contest any charges against your deposit you believe are not your responsibility, it may be a good idea to conduct an informal inspection of the property before you sign the lease. Write down any damage, defects, non-operational appliances, worn carpet, or any other items that could otherwise be claimed against your deposit and send a copy to the landlord. Taking photographs can strengthen your hand.

The following table highlights the main provisions of California's Security Deposit Law. See Security Deposit Basics, Security Deposit FAQ, Security Deposit Return Guidelines, and the California Courts Self Help page for more information.

Code Section Civil Code §1950.5
Alternate Names "Cleaning deposit," "last month's rent," "key deposit," "pet deposit"
How Long for Return of Security Deposit Within 21 days after tenant moves out, along with an itemized list for each deduction.
What Can a Landlord Withhold? Unpaid rent, damage in excess of normal wear and tear, and cleaning costs to return the unit back to a move-in ready condition.

Note: Because housing laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult with an experienced California landlord-tenant lawyer or the California Department of Consumer Affairs if you have questions about your specific situation.

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