Safegaurding Your Security Deposit

Q: I’m renting an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment for $1200 a month. How much can my landlord charge for the security deposit?

A: The security deposit payment for any unfurnished unit cannot exceed the equivalent of 2 month’s rent.  For a furnished unit, the security deposit cannot exceed the equivalent of 3 month’s rent. Therefore, for a one-bedroom unfurnished unit, the most a landlord can collect for the security deposit is $2,400, which includes all money paid beyond the first month’s rent.  (CA Civil Code 1950.5)

Q: Is it okay for the manager to require the security deposit in cash?

A: No, it is not. The landlord or manager can never request cash for exclusive payment of rent or security deposit. Cash can only be requested if the tenant has previously paid the landlord or manger with a check drawn on insufficient funds. (CA Civil Code 1947.3)

Q: The apartment complex I live in was recently purchased by a new owner.  Do I have to pay another security deposit to the new landlord?

A: No, you do not have to pay a second security deposit. Once a unit has been sold to a new owner, the previous owner is responsible for transferring the current tenant’s security deposit to the new owner. The new landlord cannot collect additional deposits from pre-existing tenants.

Q: I moved out of my old apartment over a month ago and I still haven’t received my security deposit back. Should I contact my old manager?

A: Yes. After move out, the security deposit must be refunded to the tenant within 21 calendar days. By law, the landlord must refund the entire amount of the security deposit or return a portion of the security deposit along with an itemized list of deductions taken from the deposit. A landlord may use a security deposit for: unpaid rent, cleaning or repair fees for damage to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear, and/or failure of the tenant to restore personal property (i.e. keys or garage remote openers).  (CA Civil Code 1950.5)

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