Among the most popular questions we receive each week are those involving residential security deposits. We are often called upon by tenants and landlords to write letters clarifying their positions regarding the return or retention of a security deposit. These "lawyer letters" often help resolve the issue and, if not, are excellent exhibits our clients may use when they pursue their issue in small claims court.
This is the second and final installment of a two part blog dealing with security deposit laws as they relate to residential properties. This second blog deals with how disputes arise regarding security deposits at the end of a residential lease. Please keep in mind that this article only deals with residential security deposits and other laws apply to mobile homes, commercial properties, and boats.
The Inspection. Before the tenant moves out the landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the tenant has the option to request an initial inspection of the property and that the tenant may be present during the inspection. (Civil Code section 1950.5(f).) If requested, the landlord must inspect the property within a reasonable time, but no earlier than two weeks before the lease ends. The landlord must give at least 48 hour prior written notice of the date and time of the inspection. This inspection must be done before the tenant moves out and before the landlord's final inspection. The purpose of the initial inspection is to allow the tenant to remedy any deficiencies so the tenant may avoid deductions from the security deposit. The tenant must be given the opportunity from the time of the inspection to the time the lease ends, to remedy any and all deficiencies. If, after notice to the tenant, the initial inspection is not requested, the landlord has no obligation to conduct one. It is a good idea for both the landlord and the tenant to write down the results of this inspection and to take plenty of photographs and video to back up their position.