What happens if I sue for the return of my security deposit?

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What happens if I sue for the return of my security deposit?

My landlord is acting in bad faith in returning me deposit. I had the house

cleaned and any damages repaired by a professional. When we did the pre walk through the house looked better than when I moved in. The landlord was practically on her knees trying to find damage and started pointing out normal wear and tear. She also had the move in walk through list and when I wanted to see it to show her the items she was mentioning were on the list she wouldn’t let me see it and started to say she never filled it out. When it’s

clearly in her writing. Then she did point out a couple things I forgot to fix. Like 2 missing closet doors some window screens and the door frame

leading into the house from the garage was damaged. Then she wanted me to pay for a brand new garage door that was 15 years old and never had routine service done to it. It fell off its track twice because the opener was so old and her husband not a professional tried to fix it. Didn’t work so I just stopped using it. New Link Destination
avoid arguing I asked for an itemized list of the repairs she wanted done so I could go over them. She handed me back the keys to do the repairs. I emailed her several times saying I can’t move forward with out the itemized list. Finally days later she sent the list. It was on a Monday.

I agreed to the door frame, the closet doors, screens, and a small hole in the

dry wall in the garage. I did not agree to fix the garage door. This was on a

monday. I gave my handyman the list. He went and purchased everything and when we came back 2 days later the locks were changed. I texted her, emailed, and sent a Facebook message with no response. I then emailed, texted, and Facebooked her that she did not live up to her agreement and now I’m out money because my handyman bought the materials. I then told her she had 21 days to return my deposit with any itemized statements including receipts. She emailed me a hand written invoice that only said Jose on it and the cost over the items she didn’t let me fixway over charged and added the garage door. I told her no again on the garage door and I’m not excepting a handwritten invoice. It had to be itemized with reciepts and her 21 days were up March 2. I sent several email,text, and facebook reminders with no response. I know she reads them because Facebook messenger shows that she read them. It’s now past the 21 days. My deposit was $1600; I still owe her the lasts months rent of $890. Can I sue in small claims for my deposit and 2x the amount in damages according to state law? And then will the judge then take the rent I owe out of the winnings?

Asked on March 5, 2017 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can sue to recover any amount of your deposit which was wrongfully withheld--that is, not withheld for non-normal-wear-and-tear damage or for unpaid rent. But the process works a little differently than you imply: first, a court would let the landlord take any damage costs or unpaid rent from the deposit, then they would double it. 
So if your deposit is $1,600 and you did not pay the last month's rent of $890, the first thing is, the $890 is taken out of the deposit, leaving $710--that's the amount that could potentially be doubled (up to $1,420). Next if the landlord proved any damage that you caused and did not repair, she can take that out. So say that repairing the things you admit you caused and missed fixing yourself--the closet doors, the window screens, that door frame damage--cost the landlord a total of $500 in materials and labor (buying new doors and screens, having the work done) and she can substantiate that amount in court, then another $500 would be taken out. In this example, that would leave $210 would could potentially be doubled to $420.
As you can see, since you definitely owe her the $890 unpaid rent, if the damage you did does amount to another $710 in materials and labor, you would not get anything back: the rent plus repairs would legally use up the whole security deposit.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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