Reviewing security deposit requirements

While many in Santa Cruz may view home ownership as being part-and-parcel of the American dream, a good number of local residents still rely on rental housing. Renting offers several distinct advantages to both landlords and tenants. Those advantages are no doubt behind the growing numbers of rental properties seen in the U.S. in recent years. In fact, The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reports the number of such properties to have grown to as many as 43 million as recently as 2013.

One issue that landlords and tenants typically must deal with is the handling of a security deposit. Section 1950.5.b of the California Civil Code states that a landlord can only mandate that tenants pay an amount equal to two month’s rent on unfurnished residential properties, or three month’s rent if rental units are furnished. The law does allow, however, a landlord and tenant to come to an agreement to make an advanced payment of up to six month’s rent on leases that run longer than that time period.

The general view of security deposits is that landlords are allowed to deduct the amount the needed to return a rental unit to the condition it was in before a tenant moved before returning the remaining amount to him or her. While that is true (for the most part), there are certain procedures that must be followed. For example, as the end of a lease approaches (of after being notified of the pending end of one’s tenancy), a landlord must let a tenant know of his or her right to have the unit inspected for damages. The tenant shall then be provided with a list of any repairs needed, and given the chance to remedy them before their expense is deducted from a security deposit.

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