Living in California comes with many freedoms, but it also comes with some laws that renters and landlords should both be aware of. In particular, security deposits and fees are regulated by the state of California to ensure that both renters and landlords are protected and treated fairly. In this article, we'll dive into the common security deposit and fee laws in California so that you can make sure you're fully informed when you're renting or leasing a property in the Golden State. Renting a home or apartment in California comes with certain legal protections.
In particular, California laws regulate how landlords can collect security deposits and fees from tenants. It is important for California renters to be aware of these laws so that they know their rights and can protect themselves from potential illegal practices.
When Security Deposits Are Required by Law in California and How Much a Landlord Can Legally Ask ForIn California, a landlord cannot require a tenant to pay a security deposit unless the rental agreement is for more than one month. The landlord can only ask for the equivalent of two months’ rent as a security deposit, plus an additional amount of up to two hundred dollars if the tenant has a pet.
If the rental agreement is for one month or less, the landlord can only charge a security deposit that is no more than the amount of the rent due.
When and How a Landlord Must Return a Security DepositA landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit within 21 days after the tenant moves out. If the landlord withholds any of the deposit for damages or unpaid rent, he or she must provide an itemized list of deductions and any remaining portion of the deposit within 21 days. A landlord must also provide written notice of any deductions taken from the security deposit along with receipts for any repairs or services.
Any Fees That a Landlord Can Legally Charge a Tenant, Such as Late Fees or Pet Fees A landlord can charge late fees, but the fee must be specified in the rental agreement and it cannot exceed 10% of the total rent due for that month. A landlord can also charge pet fees, but these fees must be reasonable and cannot exceed $500. Additionally, the landlord must allow for payment plans for these fees if requested by the tenant.
The Legal Protections That Tenants Have From Unreasonable Security Deposits or FeesTenants have legal protections from unreasonable security deposits and fees in California.
For example, landlords cannot require security deposits that are more than two months’ rent and they cannot charge pet fees that are more than $500. Additionally, landlords must return any remaining portion of a security deposit within 21 days after the tenant moves out.
How to Dispute a Security Deposit or Fee Charge With a Landlord if You Believe it is Illegal or UnreasonableIf you believe that your landlord is charging an illegal or unreasonable fee, you should first try to resolve the issue directly with your landlord. If your landlord does not respond or refuses to resolve the dispute, you may need to take legal action.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to file an administrative complaint with your local housing authority or file a lawsuit in small claims court.
Disputing Security Deposit and Fee ChargesTenants in California have the right to dispute security deposit and fee charges with their landlord if they believe them to be illegal or unreasonable. In most cases, it is best to first discuss the issue with the landlord in an attempt to find a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties. However, if the tenant and landlord are unable to reach an agreement, the tenant can file a formal complaint with the state's Department of Consumer Affairs. When filing a complaint, the tenant should provide detailed information regarding the security deposit or fee charge.
This includes any relevant documents or evidence that supports their claim. Additionally, they should include their contact information, as well as the contact information of their landlord. The Department of Consumer Affairs will then review the complaint and investigate the matter further. If they decide that the security deposit or fee charge is illegal or unreasonable, the landlord may be required to return all or part of the money to the tenant, or make other arrangements to resolve the dispute. In some cases, tenants may choose to take legal action against their landlord if they feel that their security deposit or fee charges have been wrongfully withheld. Before doing so, they should consult with a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law to ensure that they have a valid legal claim.
Return of Security DepositsIn California, landlords must return the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out.
The landlord may make deductions from the deposit to pay for repairs for damages beyond ordinary wear and tear that were caused by the tenant, or to cover unpaid rent. All deductions must be itemized and documented in a written statement, which should be sent to the tenant along with the remaining balance of the security deposit. Any deductions must be reasonable and necessary, and must not exceed the actual cost of repairs or cleaning. For example, if a tenant caused a stain on a carpet, the landlord cannot charge for the entire cost of replacing the entire carpet, but may charge for the cost of professional cleaning or spot replacement. Additionally, any deductions must not exceed the amount of the security deposit. If there are no deductions taken from the security deposit, then the landlord must return it in full within 21 days.
If there are deductions taken from the security deposit, then the landlord must return it within 21 days along with a written statement that provides an itemized list of deductions and their associated costs. It is important that tenants understand their rights when it comes to security deposits in California. Tenants should be sure to read their rental agreements carefully and familiarize themselves with the state's security deposit laws to ensure that they are being treated fairly.
Security Deposit RequirementsWhen renting a home or apartment in California, landlords are required to collect a security deposit from tenants. The maximum amount of the security deposit is typically three months' rent for unfurnished units and four months' rent for furnished units. However, the exact amount of the security deposit is agreed upon in the rental agreement between the landlord and tenant. It is important to note that the security deposit is held in trust by the landlord.
The landlord must keep the security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account and may not commingle it with their own funds. Landlords must also provide tenants with a receipt for the deposit and notify them of the location of the account where it is being held. Under California law, landlords are only allowed to use a security deposit for certain purposes. These include:
- To cover unpaid rent
- To cover damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear
- To reimburse the landlord for expenses incurred in connection with a tenant’s breach of the lease
Fee RequirementsFee RequirementsLandlords in California are allowed to charge certain fees to tenants.
These fees may include a security deposit, a pet deposit, or an application fee. There are limitations on how much a landlord can charge for these fees, and restrictions on how the fees must be handled. California law also allows landlords to charge late fees, non-refundable cleaning fees, and tenant-caused repair fees. The most common security deposit is two times the monthly rent amount.
Landlords are prohibited from charging more than three times the monthly rent for a security deposit if the rental unit is unfurnished. There is no limit on the amount of security deposit that can be charged for a furnished unit. A pet deposit must be refundable and separate from the security deposit. It is typically equal to one month’s rent. The pet deposit must be returned to the tenant if they do not have a pet at the end of their tenancy. Application fees are often charged to cover the cost of processing a tenant’s rental application.
Landlords in California are permitted to charge up to $50 as an application fee. The application fee must be refunded if the tenant is not approved. Late fees are allowed in California, but they must not exceed the greater of $20 or 5% of the monthly rent. Landlords must give tenants at least 10 days’ notice before late fees can be charged. Non-refundable cleaning fees are permitted if they are stated in the lease agreement. These fees must not exceed $25 or one-fourth of the monthly rent, whichever is greater.
Lastly, landlords are allowed to charge tenants for any damages that they cause beyond normal wear and tear.
Tenant ProtectionsTenant ProtectionsWhen renting a home or apartment in California, tenants have certain legal protections from unreasonable security deposits or fees. For starters, the landlord is not allowed to charge a nonrefundable security deposit or fee. Additionally, the landlord must return any security deposit within 21 days of the tenant vacating the rental unit. Under California law, a landlord may only charge a tenant a security deposit of up to two times the rent for an unfurnished unit, and three times the rent for a furnished unit. The landlord is obligated to provide the tenant with an itemized list of all deductions from the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant vacating the unit.
The itemized list must include the amount of each deduction and the reason for the deduction. California law also requires landlords to keep all tenant security deposits in an interest-bearing account in a bank, savings and loan association, or credit union. The landlord must also provide tenants with written notice of where the security deposit is being kept. The interest earned on the security deposit must be paid out annually to the tenant. If a landlord fails to pay the interest due to the tenant, the tenant can sue for up to two times the amount of interest due. Finally, if a landlord fails to return a tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of vacating the rental unit, they may be liable for up to twice the amount of the security deposit plus any actual damages suffered by the tenant.
If the landlord intentionally withholds any portion of a security deposit without just cause, they may be liable for up to three times the amount of the withheld security deposit plus any actual damages suffered by the tenant. In conclusion, tenants in California should be aware of the security deposit and fee laws that govern rental agreements in the state. Knowing these laws can help tenants protect themselves from unfair or illegal security deposits and fees, as well as ensure that landlords comply with their legal obligations. Security deposit requirements, return of security deposits, fee requirements, tenant protections, and disputing security deposit and fee charges are all critical to consider when renting a home or apartment in California. Having an understanding of the security deposit and fee laws that apply can help tenants ensure a safe, secure, and enjoyable rental experience.