Real Estate Law
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I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.
There are two parts to every lawsuit - liability and damages. If you sublet the apartment when you weren't allowed, but the sub-tenant paid the rent each month, the landlord has not been legally damaged. You could be liable for any damage your subtenant caused to the apartment (although you could sue them directly), but your landlord can't hold your deposit solely because you sublet.
A landlord does not automatically forfeit the deposit if the itemized list of damages is not sent within 21 days. Cal. Civ. Code, Section 1950.5. However, not sending the notice is evidence of bad faith. A landlord who withholds a tenant's deposit in bad faith could be liable to the tenant for three times the deposit.
If you sue, the landlord has the burden of proving that the withholding was justified. Withholding your deposit because you sublet when you weren't supposed to is also bad faith if the sublet didn't cause the landlord any financial harm.
If the apartment manager is refusing to let you talk to the landlord, you can sue the manager directly and "John Doe." John Doe represents the landlord. That will allow you to amend the Complaint once they give you the landlord's name.
The other option is to give them a choice: they can repay your money now, or they can pay you three times the amount they kept in court. Most landlords will pick option (a) because the law is not on their side.
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You're allowed to cash the check and sue for the part they didn't send you, as long as there isn't any language on the check or in the enclosed letter that says something like "By cashing this check, you agree to waive any and all claims..."
Or if it said "paid in full" on the memo line.
But then you could write "without prejudice" above your signature to protect your right to sue.
Three times the amount they kept that they shouldn't have.
Do you have any questions about this?