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Posts: 4
Reply with quote  #1 
First of all, I am a teen doing this for my mom because we're immigrants and her English isn't the best. I've read multiple posts on this website and I can't find a direct answer to our case. Please help us if you can we are first time renters and are unfamiliar with the situation. (It would be helpful to understand the LL's perspective as well) I would be extremely grateful.

We were tenants to the same location in CA for 5 years. We paid our rent on time for the past 5 years and never skipped or were late at all. We paid a security deposit of $2150 (started out as $1900 but raised when the LL raised our rent). We our lease contract has ended and 60 days before the termination day, we contacted the LL in writing and notified him that we will not be looking for a renewal.

We moved out of the house 6/25 and had our walk-in inspection on 6/26. During the inspection, the LL inspected for about 45mins. My parents asked him to sign a paper to release us of all responsibilities and that he has collected the house but he refused. He told my parents (verbally, not in writing) that he is pretty satisfied and that he probably won't deduct from our deposit and will return it within 2 weeks. He was also happy that we left our refrigerator, washer, and dryer (all in clean, working condition) with him so that he wouldn't have to buy more for new tenants in the future. (When we first moved in, he was going to provide us with those 3 appliances that were at least 20 years old, yellow, and dirty. We said that we had our own so he stored his old appliances in the garage for the past 5 years.)

Now, after 16 days, our deposit is still not here. I called our LL and his mom told me that there will probably be no sec. deposit to give back to us. She complained that the area UNDER the 25 year old burner stove top (that was hard get into anyway and 3 of the 4 burners had problems) had grease as well as with the the 25 year old kitchen ventilator. (His appliances are 8 years old than me!!!) She also complained that the lights were dusty and there were stains on the carpet. (I admit though, that was our fault so we would pay for it) She said that we should've had a cleaner.

But no matter what, does all this take $2,150?

What I am upset with is that after sucking out information out of this wonder website (Thank you so much =D) I found out a few crucial things.
1. During the walk-through, the LL did not tell us tenants of what he is unhappy with to offer us a time to do the cleaning. (I must say that our family treasured his house and cleaned the kitchen tops daily, vacuumed once a week, and wiped floors/bathroom tops on a weekly basis too. But is it right for him to deduct from OBSCURE places? ) We a week left in our contract so we could have done more cleaning.
2. It's been 16 days and he did not send us any notice yet and is going on ahead with repairs himself.

I'm pretty sure in California the return deposit date is 21 days... my question is, should we wait until after the 21 days and then take legal steps?

There are also a lot of this that were verbally said... During the first 3 years, his elderly dad was the one who did the contract with us... his son, (they were joint LLs) was in LA. His dad past away earlier this year 4 months before the end of our contract. His dad knew that the backyard grass was all weeds and not real grass. So what we did was we kept the frontyard grass in pre-renting condition but the backyard grass was a little bit worse. There were heat spells and it is just not possible to spend so much on the water bill to keep WEEDS alive. Not to mention, his sprinklers don't work well so we would have to hand water it.

There were also black mold in the bathroom roof. We asked his dad to come and fix it and he put paint over it (so now the roof is in diff. shades) but the mold still came back. We decided to just deal with it (like with the burners) so that his dad (who had cancer) wouldn't have to come. (It pains our hearts to ask him to fix stuff because he was really, really, old and it was hard for him to move)

So that's basically what is happening. What should we do? Should we wait until the 21 days are over before we take him to small claims court? Is it a good idea to ask him for the receipts and picture evidence before the 21 days so we can check to see if it is a reasonable deduction?

Please answer back... thank you so much for putting up with this long essay.


Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #2 
First, let me commend you on being such a responsible child to help out your mother like this.  You took it upon yourself to search the internet to find a site that would tell you your rights and seek help for her.  She should be proud of you.

Let me ask, did the LL offer your mother a PRE-MOVE OUT INSPECTION?  Not the post move-out inspection that happens after you move out.  He should have offered, in writing, to allow her to have an inspection BEFORE you moved out.  This offer should have been given to your mother about 2-3 weeks before the end of your lease.  This is commonly referred to as a PMI and it is a requirement in the state of CA.  He must offer this.  There is specific language that must be included in this offer.  The idea is to offer the tenant an inspection before they move out so they have some idea of what they could be charged for.  This gives them a chance to clean or repair whatever they may be charged for.  It isn't a comprehensive list of things that can be deducted from your deposit, but it is a starting point for those deductions.  If he failed to offer this, she may have a right to her deposit back in full.  Please look for a CA tenants' rights site to give you more information on this.  Ask your mother if any such offer was made in writing to her.  Read any papers he sent to her in the last couple of weeks to look for this offer.  Let us know if one was offered.

Next, your mother was correct in giving 60 days notice to vacate before the lease expired.  So no deduction can be made for lack of notice.  Verbal agreements won't hold up in court, so you can forget any conversations that took place.  What is in writing in your lease is what counts.

You do have to wait the full 21 days for him to return the statement of deductions to you.  Actually wait a few more days in case it is delayed by the mailman.  That statement should give an itemized list of what he kept and why he subtracted that amount.  If he doesn't send her this list, he can't keep any of the deposit.  It must be accounted for in writing.

When you get that list, post it here.  Let us know what amount he subtracted for each item.  We can go over the items listed to let you know if each charge is legal or not.  The law says he cannot charge for any normal wear and tear of the premises, but only for damages and needed cleaning.  Dusty lights would probably be wear & tear and he can't deduct for that.  Failing to clean under the stove top before leaving is a needed cleaning and he can deduct the hourly amount needed to clean that area.  He shouldn't charge more than an hour or two of labor for that, probably $20-30, since this isn't a skilled labor type of job and he could hire anyone for that price to clean this area.  (The rule is that he can only charge the amount that he could hire someone else to do the work for.)  Also he needs to provide receipts to your mother with that statement if the deductions are over $125.  So if he keeps more than that amount from the deposit, the receipts should be included with the statement.  Let us know if he fails to include receipts.

If the carpet were dirty, he can deduct the carpet cleaning from the deposit.  If the rugs were too dirty to be cleaned, he can only charge her a depreciated amount for the replacement carpet that he installs.  That means that if it is ruined, he cannot charge her for the whole carpet, but for only a fraction of the cost based on how old the ruined one was.  Since you had lived in the unit for 5 years, the amount he could charge is very small for this.  No more than 1/2 the price at most.  Since most LLs use a 7 year schedule on their taxes for carpet, she would probably owe only 27.5% of the carpet if it were ruined (a little more than 1/4 of the price).

Since you had a week left of paid rent time, he probably should have allowed you to return to do cleaning.  Normally, in other states, it is not standard to allow a tenant to return to clean a unit they have already moved out of.  But you live in tenant-friendly CA.  Since you had already paid the rent for the next week, he may have had an obligation to allow you to clean for that last week.  You still had the right to access the property for that period.  You had already paid for that time.

Please give it until about 28 days (the 21 days required by law and a week in case of postal delays) and repost here with any statement she receives.  Hope this was of some help to you and her.

Posts: 4
Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you so much for the quick reply! My mom and I are really grateful for your help.

Regarding you question, the LL did not offer a Pre-move out inspection (not in writing, nor in verbal. It was us who asked for the post-move out inspection). I will research online for the CA's Tenant's Rights to look into the rules.

We will wait 28 days for the statement of deductions. If we get a list, I will definite post it up on this website. During this time, we were going to call and ask for the list again but after reading your post, it doesn't seem to be necessary.

Thank you very much again for all your help! It was definitely a big help for both of us.


Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #4 

I believe the PMI statute is CA Civil Code 1950.5 so you can look it up.


Posts: 4
Reply with quote  #5 
Yes I have read the PMI statute and it is indeed civil code 1950.5 stating that the LL is required to inform the tenant in writing of our rights to have a PMI two weeks before the moveout. The LL did not do any of this and he did not inform us the things that he will deduct during the post moveout inspection that we asked him to do.

Today, we received the LL's letter. It is very brief and no receipts were included as well as the list of deduction. I will summarize the key points here:

"This letter is to inform you that due to the excessive amount of cleaning and landscaping that needs to be done to the property... your cleaning/security deposit will NOT be returned.

As of today, the amount of cleaning and landscaping... because of the poor condition [the property] was left, is far greater than the amount of your deposit.

This property was left unclean and unkept (especially the kitchen and the master bathroom) and the yard was left in poor condition and not maintained according to the contract."

Should we still ask for receipts? My mom fears that if we send him a letter, he will ask for more money and my mom would rather not go to a small claims court. Her concern is that even if we go to a small claims court, the court fees would be expensive and not too much money would be gained. She also fears retaliation from the landlord because apparently, he has been in jail before.


Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #6 
His deposit statement is not legal.  He must send an itemized statement saying exactly what had to be cleaned or replaced and why.  His statement could have read:

$40 for 4 hours @ $10/hr of cleaning master bedroom completed on July 1st by Jane Contractor (removing trash, vacuuming dusty carpet, washing down dirty walls and woodwork, washing dirty windows and blinds, washing curtains) - receipt enclosed

$60 for 6 hours @ $10/hr for cleaning the kitchen completed on July 2nd by Jane Contractor (washing down greasy cabinets, cleaning dirty oven - inside , cooktop, and under cooktop, degreasing vent fan over stove, removing food and cleaning out fridge, mopping dirty floor)- receipt enclosed

$50 for 5 hours @ $10/hr of landscaping work completed on July 3rd by Joe Lawnworker (mowing lawn that was over 6" tall, removing weeds from flowerbeds, removing weeds from fence and bushes, trimming bushes that were allowed to grow up to roof, replacing dead sod from lack of watering)- receipt enclosed

You get the idea.  The list must be itemized. Receipts must be included if the total deduct is more than $125.  A PMI must be offered.  You don't have to have i done, but he must offer it.  Even if all the work he claims was needed (and I'm not saying I believe him) he HAS to do all the above things if he wants to keep the money for those things.  As it is, he is already on shaky ground by not offering the PMI.  (I don't know what the penalties are for not offering this.  Did you see what it said?)  Urge your mother to send the letter asking for the receipts. Please see the following sites for more info:

He has already kept all of her deposit.  What more can he keep?  Have her send a letter asking for her deposit back since he failed to itemize the statement properly and failed to send receipts for any work done.  If she needs to take him to small claims court, perhaps legal aide will help her with the costs?  Small claims court is cheap and does not require an attorney (usually an attorney cannot represent someone in small claims court).  Call the clerk of court and ask for the amount to file a small claims case.  I hope she listens to you and protects her money.  2 rooms to clean and some landscaping shouldn't amount to that much money!

Posts: 4
Reply with quote  #7 
Thank you for your reply! We are sending him a letter today. I will keep you posted on the progress on this website!

Penalties for not doing PMI and including receipts can conclude in the return of 2x the deposit = D
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