This article was posted on Saturday, Mar 01, 2014

What can I deduct from the security deposit?

You are permitted to deduct the following from the security deposit:

  1. Unpaid Rent;
  2. Repair of damages to the premises, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guest or licensee;
  3. Cleaning of the premises on termination of the tenancy;
  4. The cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear, if your rental agreement specifically permits this.

What are the most common mistakes landlords make in handling the security deposit?

The most common mistakes landlords make are:

  1. Deducting improper charges, examples of improper charges include:
    1. Late Fees;
    2. Attorney’s Fees;
    3. Insufficient check fees, etc.
  2. Deducting for conditions or damages that existed prior to tenancy.
  3. Charging for normal wear and tear.
  4. Failing to pro-rate damage.

5.   Failing to give a deposit accounting to the tenant within 21 days of move-out.

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My tenant destroyed the property when they left and it is going to take longer than 21 days to make all the necessary repairs.  How can I do an accounting of the deposit when I don’t know how much it is all going to cost yet?

A “good faith” estimate is okay if repairs cannot be completed in 21 days, or services or materials are being provided by a vendor and the landlord will not have the invoices within 21 days.  You must, however, give a final accounting within 14 days of completion of repairs and receipt of invoices.  If there is a refund, it should be returned within this time frame as well.

Can I really be sued by a former tenant for not sending them an accounting of their security deposit?

Yes.  You must provide a detailed accounting within 21 days of the Tenant vacating the premises UNLESS you are refunding the full deposit and you mail the refund within 21 days.  You need to provide copies of receipts with the accounting if the costs for cleaning and/or repairs total more than $125.00. Failure to provide the accounting within 21 days may result in the Court awarding the Tenant the full security deposit plus twice that amount as a penalty. 

I don’t know where the tenant moved so how can I send them the security deposit accounting?

The accounting should be mailed to the address of the premises the tenant just vacated.  Most tenants will have their mail forwarded by the post office to their new address.  If the accounting comes back to you undeliverable, keep the undelivered document in the tenant’s file so that if the tenant ever tries to sue in Small Claims court, you will have proof that you handled the accounting in “good faith”.

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Walk-in’s welcome from 1:00 to 4:00 PM only – no appointment necessary.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: or email [email protected].

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