The biggest controversy a landlord can have with a tenant is over the security deposit return after the end of tenancy.
Therefore, California law states procedures landlords must follow for refunding, using and accounting for tenant’s security deposit, as stated by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
In order to avoid a sticky situation, Los Gatos property management company, Real Estate Connections, offers a few suggestions all landlords should incorporate before and after move-out.
First, all tenants are entitled to a preliminary inspection and if they request one then the landlord is required to give it to them. This gives the tenant an opportunity to know what needs fixing, cleaning, or painting so they can receive the full security deposit after move out.
Once the tenant moves out the landlord can do a final walk-through to see what they have done and how they did it. During this time the landlord can check to see if the property was well maintained and if the tenant listened to their recommendations and fixed or cleaned appropriately.
If your instructions were followed then that’s great because it requires less from you as the landlord. A few things you can always look at charging for are carpet cleaning and cleanliness of property.
These things, however, are determined based on how the property condition was prior to tenant possession. For example, if the carpets were not cleaned before the tenant moved in then it is not their responsibility to clean them after they’ve moved out.
According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs: The security deposit statute has the effect of limiting kinds of repairs or cleaning that the landlord or [property manager] agent may properly include in the itemized statement. Because of this statute, the landlord cannot, for example, use the tenant’s security deposit to repair damages or correct defects in the rental that existed when the tenant moved in or that are the result of ordinary wear and tear.
Since the term, “ordinary wear and tear” is pretty vague there are proper deductions that most landlords can make from the security deposit, including costs of cleaning, carpets and drapes, minor repainting, and damage to walls.
Generally, not all forms of damage to walls are considered a proper deduction in the eyes of the law. On the other hand, a large amount of holes in the walls that require filling with plaster and/or repainting can be deemed a justified withholding.
Remember that a paper trail is a landlord’s best insurance in any case, so make sure that whatever vendors are used you save the receipts. When you send your tenant an itemized statement for the services be sure to include all copies of receipts and any documentation.
Ultimately the most important thing a property owner should remember is to turn in the security deposit on time. The California law states, the landlord must send an itemized statement 21 calendar days or less after the tenant moves, along with a refund of any amount not deducted from the security deposit.
From Real Estate Connection’s experience the longer you wait the more risk you face if the issue was taken to small claims. If it does become an issue and the tenant takes you to court there is the possibility of not only returning the full security deposit, but paying double the original amount.
These guidelines are simple for all landlords to comply with and in the end will help prevent any future disagreements over the security deposit. If you are considering employing the services of the Professional Property Management company in Los Gatos, Real Estate Connections will be happy to hear from you.