CONSULTATION: 310.855.7556 info@LiptonLegal.com

LANDLORD/TENANT LAW


Our team at Lipton Legal Group understands that sometimes renting a residential or a commercial property can lead to misunderstandings and disputes. California law has measures for protecting both both landlords and tenants when disagreements arise. California rental laws aim to ensure that all rental property is in good condition and habitable, that rent is paid to the proper entity and that landlords do not discriminate and/or retaliate against tenants.
The Lipton Legal Group is committed to help both landlords and tenants when facing challenges with residential and commercial rentals. Call the office today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.

Properly Terminating a Month-to-Moth Lease or Rental
If the lease agreement has ended, or if the rental is month-to-month, either the landlord or the tenant could end the tenancy, by giving the other a 30-day advance written notice. The time for the notice varies depending on how often rent is paid. For example, if rent is due every week, only a 7-day advance written notice is needed. However, for the landlord terminate a rental that a tenant has been living in for over a year, the required notice is 60-days. If the lease agreement specifies a different amount of notice (not 30 days), the tenant must give the landlord notice according to what the lease says.
When a tenant intends to move out and gives a written 30 days notice, he/she should:• Date the notice
• State the date that he/she is intending on moving out
• State the mailing address he/she you want the security deposit sent to
• Request an initial inspection of the rental property
• Sign the notice and keep a copy
• Personally give the notice to the landlord or property manager, or alternatively send it by certified or registered mail with return receipt requested.If you have issues with terminating tenancy or getting your security deposit back from your landlord, Lipton Legal Group can help. Call the firm today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.
The Eviction Process and Unlawful Detainer Lawsuits

To evict a tenant from a residential or a commercial property in California, a landlord needs to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in the Superior Court, which is an accelerated court proceeding, in order recover possession of the rental property. Normally, the case is decided within 20 days after a request for trial is granted. Lipton Legal Group handles unlawful detainer lawsuits for both commercial and residential leases. We provide all type of eviction services in Los Angeles to both landlords and tenants and charge a flat rate fee for the entire unlawful detainer process (hourly fees are also available). Because of the accelerated nature of the unlawful detainer lawsuit, there is no room for error in the eviction process. Landlords who fail to follow the legal requirements will likely have their cases dismissed and could also unintentionally forfeit the right to evict a tenant. Similarly, tenants have very little time to act and respond to the unlawful detainer complaint, and must have viable legal defenses if they went to remain in the rental property. Call us today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.

The basic steps in an unlawful detainer eviction lawsuit:

• Notice of termination (normally a 3-day notice to quit)
• Filing and Serving the Unlawful Detainer
• – Optional Step: Service of the prejudgment claim of right to possession form on unnamed tenants
• Tenant’s Response (or default – failure to respond)
• Requesting Trial
• Trial and Judgment for Possession
• Getting a Writ of Possession
• Actual Eviction According to the Writ of Possession

The unlawful detainer eviction in California can be based on the following reasons:

  • Tenant’s non-payment of rent
  • Violation of the lease agreement
  • Committing waste (materially damaging the rental property)
  • Committing a nuisance (substantial interference with other tenants)
  • Domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking (against another tenant)
  • Using the property for an illegal purpose
  • Dealing, cultivating, importing, or manufacturing illegal drugs
  • Using the rental property for dogfighting and cockfighting
  • Nuisance caused by illegal conduct involving illegal weapons

If the tenant does not move out (or cure the breach) after the 3 days, only then can a landlord initiate an unlawful detainer lawsuit for eviction in the Superior Court.

STEP 1: 3-Day Notice To Quit
A landlord or the attorney can initiate a tenant eviction through an unlawful detainer lawsuit only after preparing and giving the tenant an advance written 3-day notice to quit. The 3 days start counting on the first day after the day the notice was served. If the third day is a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday, the 3 days are not completed until the following Monday or non-holiday. In order to be effective, the notice must be in writing and properly served on each tenant (see below). The notice must also contain the following:

  • Description of exact rental property (address, rental unit number, etc.)
  • The amount due or the nature of the breach (such as failure to pay rent and the amount due, committing nuisance, waste, etc.)
  • The name, address, and phone number of the person that the tenant must pay rent to
  • A demand for cure or correction of breach within 3 days, if the breach can be corrected (such as non-payment of rent, or having a pet that is not allowed under the lease)
    Alternatively, if the breach is not correctable, the notice must contain a demand that the tenant leave the rental property within 3 days
  • Unambiguous demand for possession, in the event that the tenant does not cure the breach
  • Optional provision: Declaration of forfeiture. If the landlord wants to get the tenant to move out and also get the rent that the tenant owes, the 3-day notice to quit must contain a “forfeiture of the lease” declaration (If this provision is missing, the judgment in the unlawful detainer suit could allow the tenant to stay in the rental by paying rent and damages within 5 days after entry of judgment)
  • The landlord’s signature
    *Rent control ordinances may impose additional requirements
    Serving the 3-Day Notice To Quit
    The law requires that the 3-day notice to quit be served on the tenants (delivered or given to them) an in exact way in order to be effective. The service requirements ensure that the tenants are put on notice that they have 3 days to act. Unlike a30-day or a 60-day notice, the 3-day notice must be served in one of the following ways:
    • Personal Service: giving or hand-delivering a copy of the notice to the tenant personally
    • Substitute Service on Another Person:if the landlord cannot find and serve the tenant at home or at work, the tenant can still be served. The person serving the notice must leave a copy with another person at the tenant’s home or workplace, and also mail another copy to the tenant’s home. The person who the notice is left with should be an adult.
    • Posting and Mailing (“Nail and Mail”): if the landlord cannot find the tenant at home or at work (personal service), and cannot serve the tenant by substitute service, the 3-day notice to quit can be served by taping or affixing the notice to the front door of the rental unit (or another visible place), and also mailing another copy to the tenant at the rental property’s address.
    Service of the 3-day notice is not effective and incomplete until the copy of the notice has been mailed (under options 2 & 3). The 3-day period starts the day after the notice was posted and mailed.

STEP 2: Filing and Serving the Unlawful Detainer Complaint
If the tenant has not moved out or cured the breach after the 3 days expire, the landlord or the attorney then file and serve the unlawful detainer complaint. In order for it to be effective, the unlawful detainer complaint must contain certain allegations (such as the basis for eviction) and come along with certain attachments (such as the summons, 3-day notice to quit, etc.). If the complaint is missing one of the essential allegations or attachments, the tenant could potentially dismiss the case by filing a demurer or a motion to quash (always consult an attorney before using such procedures). After the complaint is filed in the appropriate court, the tenant must be served with a copy of the complaint. After the tenant is served, the proof of service must be filed with the court. Serving the Unlawful Detainer Complaint There are 5 ways to serve a tenant with the complaint in an unlawful detainer lawsuit:
• Personal Service: giving or hand-delivering a copy of the complaint to the tenant (the landlord cannot be the one serving the tenant because he/she is a party to the lawsuit).
3 Substitute Service on Another Person: if the tenant cannot be personally served at home or at work, the tenant can still be served. The person serving the complaint and summons must leave a copy with another person at the tenant’s home or workplace, and also mail another copy to the place where the complaint was left. The person who the complaint is left with should be an adult who is at least 18 years of age and who is informed of the contents.
• Mailing with Acknowledgment of Receipt:A copy of the summons and complaint can be mailed to the tenant, along with 2 copies of a statutory form notice and acknowledgment of receipt and a return envelope, postage prepaid, addressed to the sender (usually the landlord).
• The notice and acknowledgment form must notify the tenant that unless he/she signs and returns the acknowledgment form within 20 days, service will be made in some other way and the tenant will be responsible for the extra costs of service.
4 Posting and Mailing (“Nail and Mail”): only with prior court approval, a tenant may be served by taping or affixing the complaint to the front door of the rental property (or another visible place), and also mailing another copy to the tenant at the rental property’s address.
• Alternative Certified Mail:only available when the tenant leaves/abandons the rental property before the lease is up. The landlord can terminate the rental by serving a written “Notice of Belief of Abandonment.” The tenant can then respond with a written notice of intent not to abandon. The landlord then has the option of starting a new unlawful detainer action against the tenant.
• The complaint can be served on the tenant by certified mail, postage prepaid, to the address shown on the tenant’s notice of intent not to abandon.
OPTIONAL STEP: Serving the “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession” on Unnamed Tenants All adult tenants occupying a rental property must be named on the complaint for it to be effective against them. If certain tenants are not named, they can get a postjudgment claim of possession against the landlord and then the landlord must initiate a new unlawful detainer lawsuit against those tenants, resulting in delays in the eviction process. To avoid such a risk, the landlord should serve a “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession” on the unnamed tenants. When the tenant is served with the unlawful detainer complaint, the prejudgment claim of right to possession form should be attached to a copy of the complaint. This forces the tenants who are unnamed in the complaint to add themselves to the unlawful detainer lawsuit by filing a claim of right to possession. Unnamed tenants have 10 days to file that claim by completing and filing the prejudgment claim of right to possession form. After that, the unnamed tenants can no longer object to the enforcement of the unlawful detainer judgment against them (no matter if they file a claim of right to possession or not). After filing the prejudgment claim of right to possession form, the unnamed tenants have another 5 days to file an answer with the court.

STEP 3: Tenant’sResponse to the Complaint (or default – failure to respond) Tenant’s Answer
Tenants in California have certain rights that landlord must abide by. Normally, tenants have 5 days after being served with the unlawful detainer complaint to file an answer with the court (or other responsive motions), so that they can avoid a default judgment. If the landlord uses the optional prejudgment claim of right to possession, the deadline to file an answer is extended by 5 days, meaning that named tenants will now have 10 days to file an answer with the court. The unnamed tenants who file the claim of right to possession with the court (within 10 days) have an additional 5 days to file their answer. A copy of the tenant’s answer must be served on the landlord by personal service or by mail. The proof of service for the answer needs to be attached to the original answer filed with the court. Once the tenant files an answer, the landlord should request a trial as soon as possible (see step 4). See the tenants’ rights page for more information of what to do when being served with an unlawful detainer complaint. Tenant’s Default (failure to respond to the unlawful detainer complaint) If the tenant does not file an answer with the court within 5 days after being served with the unlawful detainer complaint (or 10 days in some cases), the court could grant a default judgment in favor of the landlord without trial (or in other words, the landlord wins and the tenant will have to move out). In order for a landlord to obtain a default judgment against a tenant, the landlord or an attorney must file a written application for entry of default, along with proof of service of the summons and complaint.The landlord must then mail a copy of the default entry application to the tenant at the last known address. The court then enters the tenant’s default and grants a default judgment. With that default judgment, the landlord is awarded possession of the rental property and the court issues a writ of possession (an order for the sheriff to remove tenants from the rental property – see step 6). The sheriff then takes the writ of possession and posts it on the defaulting tenants’ property, giving them5 days from the date that the writ was served to leave on their own. If the tenants do not leave by the end of the 5th day, the writ of possession allows the sheriff to physically remove and lock them out. The landlord is not allowed to regain possession of the rental property until after the sheriff has removed the tenants.

STEP 4: Requesting a Trial
If the tenant files an answer to the unlawful detainer complaint, the landlord or the attorney should then file a Request to Set Case for Trial form (Judicial Council Form UD-150) with the court, which includes a Proof of Service by Mail form. After mailing the tenant a copy of the form, the person who mailed it fills out a copy of the Proof of Service by Mail form. Thereafter, the Request to Set Case for Trial and the Proof of Service by Mail forms are filed with the court. The court clerk will then set the date for the unlawful detainer eviction trial (normally not more than 20 days after the request). However, in some cases, the court could extend the time before the case is brought to trial. If the tenant is not in possession of the rental property when it is time for trial, the case is no longer eligible for an unlawful detainer trial.

STEP 5: Trial and Judgment for Possession
In preparation for trial, the landlord or the attorney can conduct discovery by scheduling an oral deposition (a witness’s sworn testimony), submitting interrogatories (set of written questions), and demanding to inspect relevant documents and/or the property. Prior to trial, the judge will encourage the landlord and the tenant to negotiate and settle the matter without proceeding to trial. The parties then meet and typically negotiate the date that the tenant will move out and other outstanding amounts owed such as rent and damages to the property. If an agreement is reached, the court will enter a judgment according to the parties’ terms (called a stipulated judgment), which gives the landlord right to the property and provides time for the tenant to move out. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, the landlord goes first and must prove through evidence and witness testimony certain elements in order to win. For example, to recover possession of the rental property and make the tenant move out, the landlord must prove:
• The creation or existence of the landlord-tenant relationship
• The landlord’s compliance with the pre-lawsuit notice requirement (3-day notice to quit)
• The termination of the landlord-tenant relationship
• The tenant’s continued possession of the rental property
After the landlord makes his case, the tenant must prove (with evidence and testimony) facts that are essential to his/her affirmative defenses. At the end of trial, if the judgment is for the landlord, the tenant has to move out and could also be responsible for any unpaid rent, for landlord’s court costs, and attorney’s fees. On the other hand, if the judgment is for the tenant, the tenant does not have to move out and the landlord could be responsible for tenant’s court costs and attorney’s fees.

STEP 6: Getting the Writ of Possession
When the landlord wins and the court enters a judgment for possession in his/her favor, the landlord is entitled to immediately get of a writ of possession. The request is made to the court clerk by a written application along with a completed writ form (Judicial Council Form EJ-130). The writ of possession has strict requirements that must be followed in order to be effective. The landlord can get a writ of possession after the tenant’s default as well (without trial).

STEP 7: Actual Eviction According to the Writ of Possession
After getting the writ of possession from the court, the landlord or the attorney then deliver the writ to the sheriff/marshal along with proper instructions and the required fee. The sheriff must then enforce the writ under the law and physically evict the tenant if he/she does not move out. First, the sheriff serves the writ of possession on the tenants, and they have 5 days to leave the rental property on their own (with additional time to remove personal belongings). If the tenants have not left after the 5 days, the sheriff can physically remove the tenants along with other occupants who did not move out after the expiration of the 5 days.

Lipton Legal Group can help you with the unlawful detainer eviction process!
The unlawful detainer process can be difficult for those who are not experienced in evictions. Therefore, it is important to have an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer to navigate the process and help reach a resolution quickly and painlessly. Call the office today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.

Tenants’ Legal Rights in California
California tenants have legal rights that are always present, no matter what the lease agreement says. When trying to evict a tenant, landlords must use the unlawful detainer eviction procedures for the law to uphold their actions. Landlords cannot forcibly enter the rental property or use violence or threats against a tenant. Landlords are also not allowed to hire a locksmith and lock tenants out of the rental property, to remove tenant’s personal belongings or to cut off utilities.
Landlords who use these methods could be liable for the tenant’s actual costs, emotional distress, and civil penalties.Other tenant rights include the following:• Limits on the security deposit amount that the landlord can require from a tenant.
• The right to a refund of the security deposit, or a written accounting of how it was used.
• Limits on the landlord’s right to enter the rental property:
The landlord must give reasonable advance notice in writing before entering the rental and can only enter during normal business hours (generally, 8 AM to 5 PM on weekdays).
No advance written notice is required in case of an emergency, when the tenant has moved of the property, when the tenant is present and consents to the entry, and when the tenant and landlord agree orally in advance to let the owner enter the unit to make repairs.
• The right to sue the landlord for violations of the law or the lease agreement.
• The right to repair serious defects in the rental property and to deduct certain repair costs from the rent, under appropriate circumstances.
• Rights under the warranty of habitability and other repairs.
• Protections from discrimination and retaliatory evictions.Tenant’s Answer to the Unlawful Detainer Eviction Lawsuit
When a tenant is facing eviction or has already been served with an unlawful detainer complaint, it is important to seek legal advice from a landlord-tenant eviction lawyer or other legal aid organizations. Your time to respond to the complaint is very short (normally 5 days), and failing to do that may result in a quick eviction from the rental property.
When filing an answer with the court, a tenant may deny the allegations in the landlord’s complaint and also raise legal defenses. Failing to file an answer may result in a default judgment and also in the tenant losing any defenses that he/she may have. Tenants could raise typical applicable defenses such as:

1. The 3-day notice to quit demanded more rent than was actually due
2. The rent that was owed was offered to the landlord (within the 3-day period) but the landlord refused to accept it
3. The eviction is retaliatory in response to the tenant exercising a legal right
4. The landlord violated the lease agreement in some way
5. The rental property violated the implied warranty of habitability

If you are facing an eviction, you should talk to a landlord-tenant attorney and protect your rights. Evictions can be delayed and sometimes cancelled altogether when tenants have proper legal representation. Call us today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.

Housing Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Housing and Rental Discrimination

Under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA), it is unlawful for a landlord, or property manager,to harass and discriminate against a tenant on the basis of:

 

• Race / Color
• Religion
• Age
• Sex (including gender, pregnancy, and childbirth)
• Sexual Orientation
• MaritalStatus
• NationalOrigin / Ancestry
• Familial Status
• Source of Income
• Disabiliy (physical, mental, and other medical conditions)

Under FEHA, examples of rental and housing discrimination are:

1. Refusing to sell, rent, or lease housing
2. Representing that a housing is unavailable forrental, sale, or inspection (when it is available)
3. Any other denial or withholding of housing accommodations
4. Providing inferior terms, conditions, privileges, facilities, or services in connection with housing
5. Harassment in connection to housing
6. Providing segregated or separated housing
7. Refusing to allow reasonable modifications of a rentalproperty to a disabled person (at the expense of the disabled person), if the modifications are necessary for full enjoyment of the property

Similar to employment discrimination, in order to prove housing discrimination, the tenant (plaintiff) must prove the following:

1. That the tenant was a member of a protected group (race, religion, sex, age, disability, etc.)
2. That the landlord used adverse conduct against the tenant (such as refusal to rent, providing inferior terms and facilities, etc.)
3. That the discrimination was intentional or that it had adiscriminatory effect
4. That there was a causal connection between protected group status (no. 1) and the landlord’s adverse rental practice (no. 2)

Tenants that have been subject to such unlawful discrimination may be entitled to money compensation for:

• Recovery of out-of-pocket losses
• Damages for emotional distress
• Civil penalties or punitive damages
• Attorney’s fees

Housing Retaliation and Retaliatory Evictions
It is illegal in California to harass, evict, or discriminate against a tenant in retaliation for the tenant exercising his/her legal rights. Legal rights under the applicable laws include, but are not limited to, opposing unlawful housing practices, calling the police regarding housing violations and testifying or assisting in any FEHA proceeding. Accordingly, landlords may not retaliate and punish tenants by evicting them, raising their rent, reducing services and any other retaliatory acts. When the landlord acts in a way that forces the tenant to move out, by violating the lease so that the rental property is no longer fit for living/business, that is a constructive eviction and the landlord may also be held liable. The law assumes that the landlord acted in retaliation if the landlord seeks to evict the tenant (or takes other retaliatory action) within 6 months after the tenant has exercised any of the following tenant rights:

1. Using the repair and deduct remedy, or telling the landlord that the tenant is intending on using that remedy
2. Complaining about the condition of the rental property to the landlord, or to a public agency
3. Filing a lawsuit against the landlord because of the rental property’s condition
4. Causing a public agency to inspect the rental property or to issue a citation to the landlord

If you have been discriminated against by your landlord,or if you have faced retaliation for exercising a legal right under California law, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your landlord and get monetary compensation. Call the office today at (310) 855-7556 for a free consultation.

Repairs and The Warranty of Habitability

The Warranty of Habitability in Californian residential leases to be in a “habitable” condition, meaning that the rental is fit for people to live in and that it substantially complies with state and local building and health codes. Repairs and regular maintenance work are a part of the warranty of habitability, in order to ensure that the rental property is “livable.” However, repairs could be the responsibility of the landlord OR tenant, depending on the lease agreement. Under California law, landlords and tenants are each responsible for certain repairs, but according to the law landlords are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the rental property is habitable.

Landlords are legally responsible for repairing conditions that seriously affect habitability. Specifically, the landlord must repair substantial defects in the rental property and other violations of state and local building and health codes. However, landlords are not responsible for repairing damages caused by the tenant or the tenant’s family, guests or pets.

Tenants are required by law to take reasonable care of their rental properties, including common areas, such as hallways and outside areas. Tenants must keep those areas clean and undamaged. Tenants are also responsible for repair of all damage that results from their neglect or abuse and for repair of damage caused by anyone that they are responsible for, such as family, guests, or pets.
Examples of conditions that are necessary for a rental property to be habitable:

1. Proper waterproofing and weather protection (of the roof and exterior walls)
2. Plumbing facilities in good working condition (such as hot and cold running water, connection to a sewage disposal system, a working toilet, sink, and bathtub/shower (must be in a room that is ventilated and allows privacy)and a kitchen with a sink (not made of an absorbent material such as wood)
3. Heating sources and gas facilities in good working condition
4. Electricity system, such as lighting and wiring, in good working condition
5. Clean, sanitary, and well-lit building and grounds
6. Adequate trash receptacles in good condition
7. Floors, stairways, and railings in good condition
8. Property free of infestation of insects, rodents, and vermin (including bed bugs)
9. A rental property that is free of lead paint and mold that may affect the livability of the unit or the health and safety of the tenants
10. Natural lighting in every room through windows or skylights. Windows in each room must be able to open at least halfway,
11. Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway. Stairs, hallways, and exits must be kept litter-free.
12. Working smoke detectors in all units of multi-unit buildings. Apartment complexes must also have smoke detectors in common areas.
13. Working locks on the main entry door of rental, and a working locker security device on the windows.
14. A locking mailbox for each rental property consistent with the United States Postal Service standards.

Tenants must do all of the following
• Keep the premises “as clean and sanitary as the condition of the premises permits.”
• Use and operate gas, electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
• Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.
• Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises or allow anyone else to do so.
• Not remove any part of the structure, dwelling unit, facilities, equipment, or appliances or allow anyone else to do so.
• Use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for their intended purposes.
• Notify the landlord when dead bolt locks and window locks or security devices don’t operate properly

Security Deposit Issues in California

Issues and disputes regarding tenant security deposits are very common in California. There are specific rules that govern the monetary amount of deposits and the procedure for withholding and using deposits. Landlords and tenants should pay close attention and follow the procedures listed below in order to avoid disputes regarding the security deposit before the tenancy ends and the tenant moves out.

Under California law, a residential lease agreement cannot state that the security deposit is non-refundable. If a residential lease agreement contains that language, it is void and will not hold up in court. When the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant, unless the landlord properly withholds and uses the deposit according to California law. Under the law, a landlord is allowed to withhold and use a security deposit for 4 purposes:

• For unpaid rent
• For cleaning the rental property after the tenant moves out (as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in)
• For repair of damages caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests (not including normal wear and tear)
• If provided in the lease agreement, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture or other items (such as keys)

Amount of Security Deposit
California law also limits the amount of the security deposit that the landlord can charge (on top of the amount for the first month’s rent). The amount depends on if the rental property is unfurnished or furnished.
1. Unfurnished Rentals: The total amount of the security deposit cannot be more than the amount of 2 months’ rent.
2. Furnished Rentals: The total amount of the security deposit cannot be more than the amount of 3 months’ rent.
When a tenant wants to move out and gives a 30-days written notice to vacate, he/she should:
• Date the notice
• State the date that he/she is intending on moving out
• State the mailing address where he/she wants security deposit sent to
• Sign the notice and keep a copy
• Personally give the notice to the landlord or property manager or send it by certified or registered mail with return receipt requested

Procedure of Refunding or Withholding a Security Deposit
California law has specific procedures that the landlord must follow for withholding, using, and returning the security deposit. Within 21 calendar days after the tenant has moved out, the landlord must either:

1. Send the tenant a full refund of the security deposit
OR
2. Mail or personally deliver to the tenant an itemized statement that lists any deductions from the security deposit and the reasons for the deductions, along with a refund of any amounts not used
If the landlord does not send the tenant a full refund of the security deposit and/or does not give the tenant an itemized statement of the deductions within 21 days, the landlord loses the right to keep any of the security deposit and must return the entire deposit. The landlord’s claims for damages (for unpaid rent, repairs and cleaning) are not forfeited, as the landlord may still later sue the tenant for them, if the landlord can prove that the claimed damages and if the claimed amount is reasonable. If a landlord in California intentionally withholds the security deposit in “bad faith,” the landlord could be liable for the tenant’s actual damages and for statutory damages of up to two times the amount of the security deposit.

Avoiding Problems with the Security Deposit
If a tenant in California wants to avoid potential problems with the refund of the security deposit, it is important that he/she requests an initial inspection of the rental property before moving out (the inspection cannot be earlier than 2 weeks before the moves out date). However, the landlord cannot do an initial inspection if the tenant does not ask for one. The tenant does not have the right to request an initial inspection if he/she has been served with a 3-day notice to quit (for non-payment of rent, material damage to the property, nuisance, etc.). The purpose of the initial inspection is to give the tenant a chance to repair any damages before moving out. If the tenant requests an initial inspection, the landlord must inspect the rental property before the final inspection, and provide the tenant with an itemized list of potential deductions from the security deposit. The tenant also has a right to be present during the initial inspection, and has time up until moving out to make any necessary repairs and avoid deductions form the security deposit. After the tenant has moved out, the landlord or property manager could perform a final inspection of the rental property. The landlord can then deduct money from the security deposit:

• To repair damages that were identified in the initial inspection but were not repaired
• For damages that occurred after the initial inspection
• For damages that were not identified in the initial inspection because of the tenant’s personal belongings (furniture, etc.).
In either situation, the landlord has 21 days after the tenant has moved out to give the tenant a full refund of the security deposit or an itemized list of all deductions.