Security deposits can be a tricky situation after tenancy ends. The return of the deposit is generally the most common disagreement between landlords and tenants. If proper measures are not taken, the landlord can potentially face small claims court. Here’s what Action Properties of Roseville, CA suggests when dealing with both move out home inspection and security deposit return.

To help avoid a possible dilemma, California law states procedures landlords must follow for refunding, using, and accounting for a tenant’s security deposits. To understand the laws and calculations associated with the security deposit return, one must first understand why a security deposit is put in place to begin with.

According to California courts, a security deposit is any money a landlord takes from a tenant other than the advance payment of rent. The security deposit serves to protect the landlord if the tenant breaks or violates the terms of the lease or rental agreement. In addition, it may only be used for four purposes:

  1. For unpaid rent; utility charges, Late Fees, Returned Check Fees
  2. For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in;
  3. For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guest; and
  4. If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.

When a tenant is preparing to move out of the property, by law they are entitled to a preliminary inspection two weeks before their move out date. If the tenant requests one, the landlord is required to give it to them.

This gives the tenant an opportunity to know what defective items need either cleaning or fixing, so they can receive the full security deposit after move out.

Once the tenant moves out, the landlord or property manager completes a final walk-through to see what conditions the property has been left in.  It is necessary to determine what steps need to be taken to have the property in rent ready condition.  The house is checked from top to bottom, everything from windows, carpet and screens, a/c filters to light bulbs in addition to any cleaning issues.  We also check condition of walls and any other items that are in need of repair.

During the move-out inspection, we’ll use the move-in inspection check list to see what condition the property was in prior to tenancy. Additionally, we’ll check to see how the property was maintained throughout tenancy. If we come across something, we’ll let the tenant know what their responsibility may be to restore it move in condition.

The move-out inspection is essentially there to help landlord determine what they will hold the tenant responsible for. Generally, you should get the house back in reasonably same conditions as when you gave to them. However, one of the biggest issues is cleanliness. Most of the time, people’s standards of cleaning are much different, so we suggest hiring a professional cleaning service to do it for you.  We also require all our tenant’s to have the carpets professionally cleaned upon move out no matter the length of tenancy.

After the move-out inspection is completed, we strongly suggest to the landlord they hire a vendor to take care of whatever repairs are necessary. You must have receipts to deduct any charges against the Security Deposit. Remember that a paper trail is a landlord’s best insurance in any case, so make sure that whichever vendors are used you save the receipts.

Ultimately the most important thing a property owner should remember the need to account for the Security Deposit within the proper time frame. The California law states the landlord must send an itemized statement 21 calendar days or less after the tenant moves, along with a refund of any amount not deducted from the security deposit.  You must provide receipts for any services or repairs made against the deposit.  You can send an estimated charge against the deposit however, you must provide a receipt, if the amount is less you must return the difference.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Action Properties.