Handling the tenant security deposit at the end of a tenancy is a contentious task that may cause disputes and risk ending your professional relationship with tenants on a sour note. The security deposit protects landlords from potential damage to the property and other liabilities and it should not become a reason for misunderstandings between landlords and tenants.
As the landlord, you have the right to deduct repair costs from the deposit, but disputes arise when the reasons for withholding the deposit are not clear to the tenant or not backed by sufficient proof.
Therefore, it is better to avoid security deposit disputes altogether, instead of creating scope for disagreements or conflicts. Here are a few things Long Beach landlords can do to ensure that the security deposit deductions are abundantly clear.
1. Document the Condition of Your Long Beach Property at Every Inspection
Regular property inspections are crucial to track the condition of your property. You should assess your property every time tenants move in and out of your rental. Plus, make sure that you inspect the property at least every three months during the course of the tenancy. You can either hire a professional inspector or do it yourself. Make sure you document every property damage you spot during the inspection.
Make detailed notes, take pictures, and record videos of any significant damage, and add those to the inspection report. Differentiate clearly between normal wear and tear and intentional damage as that will allow you to justify your claim while withholding the necessary amount and avoid disputes.
2. Keep a Detailed Record of Maintenance and Repairs Expenses
Firstly, make sure that you have clearly outlined which expenses are covered under property maintenance and which are to be charged separately. Secondly, maintain a detailed record of the money you spend on rental maintenance and repairs throughout the tenancy, right down to the final cleaning, and trash removal expenses after your tenants move out. If you want to claim these costs and deduct them from the deposit, make sure you have all the invoices, bills, and receipts of those amendments you did after your tenants moved out.
Consider categorizing all the proofs according to days, timings, and dates, and have supporting documents in place to match your claims. All these costs will go with the security deposit amount, so make sure you calculate the repair costs and the pending amount you would return to your tenants to avoid further arguments.
3. Avoid Security Deposit Disputes By Offering A Chance To Remediate
One of the best ways to avoid disputes over deposits is to allow your tenants to remediate and point out the property’s condition before moving out. You can conduct a walk-through with your tenants to maintain transparency and avoid misunderstandings. Also, send them a notice about the items you will deduct when you are reviewing deposit returns.
4. Double-check the Accuracy of Your Deductions
As a landlord, you do not want to make invalid deductions or withhold deposits without a strong and relevant reason. Consider keeping evidence of all repair costs handy while making deductions. Make sure you have correctly checked your claims and gone through the inspection reports twice before deducting the expenses.
5. Include Security Deposit Clauses in the Lease Agreement
Your lease agreement should state all the rules and laws related to security deposit returns. It will allow your tenants to know your rights to withhold the amount in specific scenarios. Consider including the following in your lease agreement to avoid unnecessary disputes.
- The limit on the amount of security deposit (equal to 2 months’ rent in California)
- The duration (21 days) in which you should return the deposit.
- Your right to deduct the costs for cleaning, property damage, and unpaid rent
- Security deposit laws in California
6. Learn To Compromise
At times, tenants may not agree with your assessment of the security deposit deductions and want to pursue legal action. In such cases, consider if coming to a mutual agreement with your renters will be less expensive than court scenarios and lawsuits.
Avoiding security deposit disputes can be challenging for landlords, especially those who do not have a lot of experience in the field. However, hiring an experienced and reputed property management company like HCM Property Management can help you avoid the arguments over security deposits and handle deposits like a pro. We also provide inspections services, where we document all property wear and tear and damage in exhaustive detail. This ensures that we build a strong case for all your security deposit deductions.
For more information on our property management services, contact us at HCM Property Management.