Congrats! You’ve just been accepted for that cute little studio apartment! Upon acceptance, the landlord or property management company has requested one month’s rent & the security deposit up front before you sign a lease & move in.
What exactly is a security deposit? I am glad you asked!
The security deposit is NOT your last month’s rent. It is the landlord’s way of protecting their property from damages. Typically, he or she will ask for the security deposit to be equal to the first month’s rent. Sometimes, they will ask for more, but they CANNOT ask for more than TWO times the amount of rent for unfurnished rentals. For furnished rentals, the security deposit can equal up to THREE times the amount of rent, in Los Angeles, CA.
Before moving in to your new place, make sure the property management company, agent or landlord performs a walk through inspection with you to note any property damage that currently exists. Snapping some photos of the interior and exterior is a great idea in order to compare how the unit looked when you move in to when you move out.
Say your new apartment is a little “blah”. Your personal style is very important to you, so you would really like to liven up your new home with a splash of color, hang some pictures, new curtains, possibly mount your flat screen on the wall in the living room. ASK FIRST! Landlord says okay? Get it in writing! You need hard proof that the landlord is allowing you to alter his or her property. Sometimes they will ask that you just return the unit to the way it looked when you first moved in.
Okay, so it’s been about two years, and you’re ready to upgrade to a bigger place. You’ve sent your 30 day notice to the landlord and even followed up with a phone call to make sure he received the letter that you will be vacating the unit in 30 days.
Time flies by and it’s now TWO WEEKS before the big move, and you really need to get your security deposit back to use towards that upcoming trip to Costa Rica! Here’s a bright idea: give your landlord a call again and ask him to inspect your unit to see if anything needs to be cleaned or repaired before you move out, in order to receive your full security deposit back. Ask him for an itemized list of repairs. Schedule another inspection appointment with him or her for the day you will have everything cleared out of the unit.
Day 30 rolls around and you’ve just finished packing the trucks to move to your bigger, better place. The unit is completely vacant now. Ask your landlord for another itemized list of what he will be deducting, if anything, from your security deposit and have him sign it. Before you leave, take pictures again for your records. It will help your case if any disputes arise.
From the day you move out, the landlord has 21 days to refund your entire security deposit as long as you didn’t leave the place in shambles, ie. windows broken, holes in the walls and doors, broken light fixtures, carpet torn or majorly stained, a lingering odor that stinks to the high heavens… you get the idea!
However, the landlord may or may not deduct a small amount for cleaning. There should be no surprises for you when you receive your check in the mail, if you follow these steps. Repeat these steps for every new rental you move to.
If 21 days have passed and you haven’t gotten your security deposit back yet, call up your landlord and find out what the delay is. If he is dodging your calls and not giving you a straight answer, you can file a claim in Small Claims Court against your landlord to recover your money. Here is a link for more information about filing a small claim: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/small_claims/index.shtml
Cited from http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml