California landlord refuses to refund rental deposit of $1,200 nor give itemization of deductions. It has been over 2 months since move out. 30-Day notice was given, unit was thoroughly cleaned and the carpets were steam cleaned. Keys were turned in 1 day early. Property manager completed walk through and I signed paperwork signifying no damage to the unit. I do not have a copy of this paperwork or photos of unit at vacancy. At the time of move out the property manager verbally communicated that I shouldn't have bothered cleaning the carpets as the plan was to replace them anyways. I followed up 6 weeks after move out and Landlord stated that refund check would be in the mail the next day. Upon calling this week to find out about the check I was told that a refund would not be given. Landlord stated that the keys were turned in late and that the carpet was replaced, which added up to the total of the deposit. The carpet was already several years old when I moved in and showed no damage past normal wear at move out. I have repeatedly contacted the landlord and property management company to no avail.
What is my recourse in this situation to receive my deposit back?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Small claims court is a good option. If you prove to the court that the landlord acted in “bad faith” in refusing to return your security deposit, the court can order the landlord to pay you the amount of the improperly withheld deposit, plus up to twice the amount of the security deposit as a “bad faith” penalty. Most counties provide free small claims advisors. Whether you can collect attorney’s fees if you win such a suit depends on whether the lease or rental agreement contains an attorney’s fee clause. Keep this in mind if you have to pay an attorney in connection with the case. You will have to explain to the court why you do not have important evidence such as photos or the walk-through paperwork, and that may have a negative effect on your case. talk to the advisor or your attorney about how to prepare.