A few years ago, I was in a pretty serious car accident. During the aftermath, I became really familiar with a lot of different types of lawyers. I worked with personal injury lawyers, insurance lawyers, and many others. Perhaps the most important, though, was the estate planning lawyer. I was really young, and neither my wife or I had thought about starting a will. But the accident kind of scared us into it. What would happen if one of us were to die? Even when still in the hospital, I was working with the lawyer to draw up a will. Now, I have some peace and security about what the future will be like if something should happen to me. And I have a lot of experience working with various types of lawyers! The accident was kind of a blessing in disguise in that way.
If you rent your home or apartment, you may at some point need to head to court to gain back your security deposit. This tends to happen when a landlord believes that he or she is entitled to the funds from the deposit to take care of damage to the house. There is often a disagreement between the tenant and landlord as to what expenses count as normal wear and tear and which ones are actual damage. In California, the law is clear. Answering these questions may help you determine whether you should take your landlord to court to get your deposit back.
What can the landlord use the deposit for?
The landlord is allowed to use the deposit to first take care of any unpaid rent. The landlord can also use the funds to cover repairs for damage caused by the tenant and to make the unit as clean as it was at the start of the tenancy.
What is the best way to avoid a problem with my security deposit?
The best way to ensure that you don't have problems with the deposit when you go to move out is by paying careful attention to the house when you move in. Create a checklist that details the home's current status. Take pictures of the house and have a witness available who can attest to the status of the house. You can also relieve the possibility of problems by cleaning the unit thoroughly before you leave, taking photos once again.
How long does the landlord have to return my deposit to me?
After you move out, your landlord has exactly 21 days to either return your deposit or provide you with an itemized statement regarding how your deposit was spent.
What steps should I take if I disagree with my landlord's deductions? If the landlord does not send you the deposit, you can create a formal demand. Writing a letter is the best way to do this. If the letter does not result in collection of your funds, you have the right to sue the landlord in small claims court. When you do come to court, make sure to bring your condition checklist of the house, any photos you have, and your demand letter.
Nobody wants to have to go to court, but that is sometimes what it takes to get back your deposit. If you have questions about getting your security deposit, it may be wise to speak to a lawyer who is familiar with California's laws.
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18 January 2016