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Security Deposit Dispute Attorney in San Francisco, California


Security Deposit Disputes


California Security Deposit Dispute Attorney


California landlords can charge tenants a security deposit. However, one of the most common disputes between landlords and tenants involves refunding the tenant’s security deposit after the tenant has moved out. Typical lawsuits are filed by tenants against landlords who unfairly withheld deposit money for repairs, back rent, maintenance, or failed to return the deposit at all

Fortunately, you can take some basic steps to minimize the possibility of security deposit disputes. Our reliable San Francisco landlord-tenant attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. can help you understand the rules for security deposit returns in California. Contact us now and schedule an initial consultation with our landlord-tenant law firm.

Real Estate Disputes?


Whether you're dealing with a landlord-tenant dispute or addressing a real estate concern in California, our San Francisco real estate attorneys are here to protect your rights.

Why Do I Need a Security Deposit Dispute Attorney in California?

California security deposit dispute attorney

California law sets specific rules that landlords must follow when returning and deducting any money from a tenant’s security deposit. This area of the law can be complicated and confusing. Even the most meticulous landlord may be sued by a tenant over the return of a security deposit.

When a disagreement arises regarding a security deposit, our credible San Francisco security deposit dispute attorneys provide legal advice and representation to resolve the disputes. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we have extensive legal experience in handling security deposit disputes and other landlord-tenant matters. We can help you navigate the California landlord-tenant law to determine the rules in handling security deposits and avoid any disputes.

What is a Security Deposit?

A security deposit is a specified amount of money a landlord takes from a tenant other than the advance payment of rent. It serves as insurance to protect the landlord if the tenant breaks or violates the lease or rental agreement terms. It may be used to cover damage to the property, cleaning, key replacement, or back rent.

If the tenant and landlord cannot reach an agreement on the amount of the security deposit returned, it may lead to disputes and lawsuits. Security deposit disputes are one of the most common issues between landlords and tenants. It can become a hostile debate because each party believes they deserve the money. A trusted California security deposit dispute attorney can help you resolve such disputes.

How Long Does a Landlord Have to Return the Security Deposit?

Generally, security deposits are refundable once the tenant moves out and vacates the rental property. However, the time it takes to return the security deposit may vary from state to state. A qualified San Francisco security deposit dispute attorney can help you know the rules on handling security deposits in California.

California tenants should receive their security deposit refund no later than 21 days after moving out of the rental property. Landlords must meet the deadline for itemizing and returning the tenant’s deposit. It is important to provide tenants with advanced notice of intended deductions, which is generally done in a pre-move-out inspection. In a move-out inspection, both landlords and tenants will go through the rental unit, checking for any damages done to the unit by the tenant that was not approved by the landlord.

If your tenant does not receive the security deposit within this given time frame, you must send them a letter stating the following:

  • The remaining amount of the security deposit
  • The reason why the security deposit is withheld
  • A detailed and itemized statement of deductions with copies of receipts

What Can a Landlord Deduct from Security Deposits in California?

Ideally, a security deposit will be returned in full, but this is not always the case. According to California state law, a landlord may use the tenant’s security deposit to fix any property damage caused by the tenant or their visitors, pay for cleaning the apartment, or offset unpaid rent. In some cases, you may want to offer the tenant a second chance at cleaning or fixing any damage you’ve identified in the final inspection before you deduct cleaning charges from the security deposit.

A lease or rental agreement may also specify other reasons for deducting a security deposit. It is important to have a knowledgeable San Francisco security deposit dispute attorney review the terms of your rental agreement beforehand to avoid violating California landlord-tenant laws.

A landlord can deduct the following expenses from the tenant’s security deposit:

Cleaning Costs

When a tenant moves out, the landlord can deduct the cost of cleaning the unit. However, the deduction must be made only to make the rental unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in.

Repair of Damages

As a California landlord, you can deduct the cost of fixing any damages to the rental unit caused by your tenant. However, you can’t make any deductions on normal wear and tear. You can only withhold the amount for reasonable and necessary repairs. Furthermore, you cannot use the security deposit to repair damages that existed in the rental unit before the tenant moved in.

Unpaid Rent

You may use the security deposit for unpaid rents. It includes the amount of rent owed if your tenant did not provide the proper notice before moving out.

What Can You Do If a Tenant Sues You for the Security Deposit?

Even though you have properly informed tenants of their deposit and carefully followed California security deposit laws, some tenants who disagree with your deductions and claims may sue you for failing to return the required amount. A competent San Francisco security deposit dispute lawyer can help you defend yourself in small claims court in California.

In some states, tenants are required to provide landlords with a demand letter before filing a small claims case. Before going to court, your tenant will most likely communicate with you through an email or a phone call, demanding that you fix some other issues involving the security deposit or refund more than you did.

As a landlord, the first step you can take to resolve a security deposit dispute quickly and peacefully is to provide your tenant with the legal reasons deductions have been made from the security deposit. You can try working out a reasonable compromise with your tenant. If not, and the tenant sues you and wins, you may end up losing the entire security deposit. In addition, if you acted in bad faith when violating state security deposit law, you might face punitive damages and hefty penalties. If compromise is not possible, your tenant will probably sue you promptly.

Real Estate Disputes?


Whether you're dealing with a landlord-tenant dispute or addressing a real estate concern in California, our San Francisco real estate attorneys are here to protect your rights.

Call Our Experienced California Security Deposit Dispute Attorney Now!

California landlords can avoid landlord-tenant disputes by understanding the rules and regulations in handling security deposits. However, even if you have a legal reason to withhold a tenant’s security deposit, have followed all state laws, and have evidence to support your claim, your tenant may still try to sue you in small claims court to recover this money.

When a disagreement arises regarding a security deposit, it is highly advisable to seek legal help from our seasoned San Francisco security deposit dispute attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. Our landlord-tenant law firm assists landlords in drafting leases and notices to comply with the law and avoid the occurrence of landlord-tenant disputes. In the event of a lawsuit, we will prepare arguments for your case, gather strong evidence, and represent you in court. Call us now and schedule an initial consultation.

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We will do everything in our power to successfully resolve your landlord-tenant case or real estate dispute in as little time as possible. We have the resources to take on complex real estate cases and the size to keep you from becoming more than just a case file.”

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