Canmy landlord charge mefor normal wear and tear?

UPDATED: Apr 21, 2011

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Canmy landlord charge mefor normal wear and tear?

I moved out from a studio apartment before the 1 year contract ended. I paid full 3 months rent and lease break fee. I cleaned the place like the way it was before I moved in. There was no damage at the time I vacated. After few weeks later, I was still waiting for return of my security deposit. They sent me a letter that stated that I need to pay $21 extra for the wall painting touch up, cleaning and carpet shampoo. I researched on-line CA Civil Code Section 1950.5 which describes that a landlord cannot deduct for painting, carpet shampoo, or replacing the carpets unless tenant damages them. What are my rights?

Asked on April 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No, you cannot; you are correct.  CA’s security deposit statute specifically allows the landlord to only use a tenant’s security deposit for: 

  • Unpaid rent;
  • Cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out - but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in;
  • Repair of damages caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests - other than normal wear and tear; and
  • The cost of restoring or replacing furnishings/personal property - other than because of normal wear and tear and only if the lease/rental agreement allows it.

Therefore, a landlord can only withhold from the security deposit those amounts that are reasonably necessary for these purposes.  It cannot be used for repairing defects that existed in the unit before the tenant moved in, for conditions caused by normal wear and tear during a tenancy or previous tenancies, or for cleaning a rental unit that is as clean as it was when the tenant moved in.  What you can do is take your landlord to small claims court to collect any sums legitimately owed to you.  However, it will cost to file so make sure that it's worth it (and $21 would not be worth it). 

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 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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