Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California property management and resident manager laws followed by answers provided by Attorney Franco Simone.
Q: I rented my condo in Mission Valley to a couple. I recently remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms and want to make sure I protect my investment. Can I charge the tenant two times the rent in a security deposit?
A: Yes, a security deposit shall not exceed two times the monthly rent for unfurnished units or three times the monthly rent for furnished units. Additionally, you cannot demand the first month, last month, and two times the rent in a security deposit.
Q: I rented my single-family home to a tenant 10 years ago. When I rented the property, I only required a $500 security deposit. I recently replaced the flooring in the home and replaced the cabinets in the kitchen. Can I increase the tenant’s security deposit?
A: It depends, if you are in a fixed-term lease, you must either wait until the tenancy is on a month-to-month or your tenant must mutually agree to the increase and sign an addendum. During a month-to-month tenancy, you can increase a security deposit by serving the tenant with a 30-day change in terms of tenancy. If, after the 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy expires and the tenant does not pay the increase in deposit, you can serve the tenant a 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit.
Q: My new tenant wants to have a waterbed. A friend told me that I cannot refuse this request. Is that true and can I request a higher security deposit?
A: Your friend is partially correct. California law requires that if your rental property has a certificate of occupancy issued after January 1, 1973 a landlord shall not refuse to rent to a tenant based solely on the basis that the tenant has a waterbed or other bedding with liquid filling material if they meet certain requirements. Additionally, the landlord has the right to inspect the bedding installation upon completion and periodically to ensure compliance with the requirements. Additionally, if the tenant has a waterbed or other bedding with liquid filling material the landlord may require a total security deposit of two and a half months rent as a security deposit. For additional information on the requirements a tenant must meet to require a landlord to allow them to have a water bed please contact my office or an attorney.
Q: I have been renting my townhouse to tenants for over 40 years. In the time I have been renting the property, I have had numerous issues with the return of the security deposit and no longer want to deal with it. Can I start charging my tenants a non-refundable security deposit?
A: No, a deposit must be refundable. The only way to avoid itemizing and returning the security deposit is to not require one. I recommend always requiring a security deposit as it is an incentive for your tenant to keep the property in good and clean condition. If you want to avoid issues with the security deposit at the end of the tenancy, you can always return the deposit in full to the tenant within 21 days of the date they vacated.
Q: My rental property is pet-friendly. I currently am charging my tenants a pet deposit of $1,000 in addition to the regular security deposit. Recently, I had a tenant vacate and struggled to prove what damages were caused by the pet and what was caused by the tenant. Is there a way to avoid these types of issues in the future?
A: Yes, you should just charge the tenant a higher security deposit instead of calling it a pet deposit. While a security deposit can be used towards any damages, repairs, and cleaning costs, a pet deposit may only be used toward damages and cleaning caused by a pet. It is difficult to identify the difference between the damages from a pet and puts you at greater risk of being sued for wrongfully deducting from the pet deposit. Simply avoid this issue by only charging a security deposit. Remember, California law allows landlords to charge tenants two times the rent as a security deposit for unfurnished units and three times the rent for furnished units.
Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Blevins, has been doing evictions for over 28 years. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego. Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email [email protected].