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N Cal Attorney
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 8237
Experience:  since 1983
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My landlord neglected to inform me of my right to request a

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My landlord neglected to inform me of my right to request a pre-move out inspection and then denied it when I found the clause in my lease. She is withholding part of my deposit for items that I firmly believe are normal wear and tear after a 2.5 year tenancy and keeps reminding me of all the other items she "could have" charged me for (also normal wear and tear, in my opinion as well as that of two other property managers). This is in addition to requiring me to pay out of pocket to have the carpets professionally cleaned, even though this is not mentioned in my lease agreement.
Do I have any recourse? Is it worth pursuing?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
I'm sorry to hear this.

Did the landlord send an accounting of your security deposit within 21 days after you vacated the property?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes but as I mentioned, I believe the items are wear and tear after 2.5 years and should not be charged at all.
Thank you.
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
Can you please tell me what items were deducted from your deposit that you consider normal wear and tear?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Repainting, even though we lived there 2.5 years. Bubbled shelf paper in a laundry cabinet which is used to store liquids and had existing damage. Rather than replacing the shelf paper she is charging me $75 for the entire shelf. Replacing the plastic covering at the bottom of the refrigerator below the doors, which about ten years old. I should also note that I had never even seen the crack before she sent a picture about two weeks after moving. More upsetting is the ongoing emails reminding me of all the other things that she "could have charged me for" such as the burner covers, lightbulbs in the cathedral ceilings, and scuffed doorknobs. She is also charging me for cleaning the windows and screens even though I cleaned them before moving out and provided pictures because they were dirty again by the time she made it down for the actual inspection. Replacing the air filter for the air conditioning, refrigerator water filter, just as examples. She claims to have mailed a check for part of my security deposit but I have not yet received it. She had told me at one point that I would be getting the full deposit back but then never mailed the check and hit me with these items so I'm afraid that if I complain then she will either not mail the check or cancel it and then charge me for more of the things on her list. As an added note, I have asked to professional property managers to review the pictures and her itemized list and both said that everything in question would be wear and tear based on the amount of time we'd lived there.
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
A security deposit can not be used for normal wear and tear, according to
http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml
which suggests a 2 year life span for interior paint.

That web page also states:
"Suppose that your landlord does not return your security deposit as required by law, or makes improper deductions from it. If you cannot successfully work out the problem with your landlord, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court for the amount of the security deposit plus court costs, and possibly also a penalty and interest, up to a maximum of $10,000 (If your claim is for a little more than $10,000, you can waive (give up) the extra amount and still use the small claims court.) For amounts greater than $10,000, you must file in superior court, and you ordinarily will need a lawyer in order to effectively pursue your case. In such a lawsuit, the landlord has the burden of proving that his or her deductions from your security deposit were reasonable.

If you prove to the court that the landlord acted in "bad faith" in refusing to return your security deposit, the court can order the landlord to pay you the amount of the improperly withheld deposit, plus up to twice the amount of the security deposit as a "bad faith" penalty. The court can award a bad faith penalty in addition to actual damages whenever the facts of the case warrant—even if the tenant has not requested the penalty. These additional amounts can also be recovered if a landlord who has purchased your building makes a "bad faith" demand for replacement of security deposits. The landlord has the burden of proving the authority upon which the demand for the security deposits was based.
///
"What if the landlord doesn't provide a full refund, or a statement of deductions and a refund of amounts not deducted, by the end of the 21-day period as required by law? According to a California Supreme Court decision, the landlord loses the right to keep any of the security deposit and must return the entire deposit to you", citing
Granberry v. Islay Investments (1995) 9 Cal.4th 738, 745.

It sounds like you have a valid case to be filed in small claims court, see
http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/small_claims/,
http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-smallclaims.htm and
http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/pubs/bg34.pdf for detailed information on how to bring a small claims case for a refund from the landlord.

I hope this information is helpful.
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 8237
Experience: since 1983
N Cal Attorney and 7 other Consumer Protection Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for accepting my answer.

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