California is different from most states in that you cannot charge a pet deposit or a non-refundable pet fee.
With any rental there are generally two categories of deposits that you can charge at the beginning of a lease agreement: a pet deposit and a security deposit. You can ask for a security deposit in California, but California is different from most states in that you cannot charge a pet deposit or a non-refundable pet fee. This means that any damage attributable to a pet must be taken from a security deposit.
Security Deposit Specs
For an unfurnished unit the maximum deposit is two times the monthly rental amount.
A security deposit in California has a maximum dollar amount which depends on whether the rental unit is furnished or unfurnished. For an unfurnished unit the maximum deposit is two times the monthly rental amount and for a furnished unit it is three times the monthly rental.
Here’s what you can use the security deposit for in California:
- to compensate the landlord for the tenant’s failure to pay rent
- damages to the premises, other than normal wear and tear, that are attributable to the tenant, tenant’s guests, or invitees
- cleaning the premises to bring it back to the same level of cleanliness as it was at the beginning of the lease term
- to remedy future defaults by Tenant in any obligation under this Agreement to restore, replace, or return personal property or appurtenances, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear
Returning The Security Deposit
Before the tenant leaves the rental they must give the landlord their forwarding address. The landlord will, within 21 calendar days after the tenant vacates, send the tenant by mail a copy of an itemized statement that shows the original amount of the security deposit received and any deductions from the deposit. If there is a remaining portion of the security deposit it is then provided to the tenant. If the landlord needs to deduct more than $125 from the deposit then he must also include copies of documents showing charges incurred and deducted to repair or clean the premises, along with the itemized statement.
California is fairly specific about the information required on the itemized statement.
An important distinction is if the landlord did the work or if he hired someone to do the work. If the landlord or landlord’s employee did the work, the itemized statement must describe the work performed. The itemized statement shall include the time spent and the reasonable hourly rate charged.) If the landlord or landlord’s employee did not do the work, the landlord must provide the tenant a copy of the bill, invoice, or receipt for the work performed. The itemized statement must also include the name, address, and telephone number of the person or entity who performed the services.
Failure To Comply
As you might expect, failure to comply with the security deposit law in California can subject a landlord to up to twice the security deposit amount, plus damages. The burden of proof is on the landlord to show that any amounts withheld from the deposit were reasonable and necessary, so make sure to document your move-in inspection, the move-out inspection, and take pictures with time and date stamps. The more evidence you have of damages the more defensible your argument will be for retaining all or a portion of the security deposit.