A security deposit is collected before a lease term to protect property owners in the event that there’s damage to the property or the tenants’ don’t fulfill the terms of their lease agreement. Irvine landlords and property managers hold the deposit throughout the lease term and then return all of it, part of it, or sometimes none of it, to the tenants after they move out.
California’s statewide landlord and tenant laws address security deposits. There are limits to how much you can collect and there are rules about how quickly you must return the deposit. It’s important that you carefully follow this law. Even a simple mistake can result in steep fines and a frustrating court case.
In our experience as Irvine property managers, most tenant and landlord disputes arise because of a disagreement over the security deposit. We want to let you know exactly what you can pay for with that deposit.
Security Deposits Can Cover Unpaid Rent
If the tenant has unpaid rent that’s still due, the security deposit can be used to bring the balance up to date. Perhaps only partial rent was paid the last two months or a month was skipped altogether. Use the tenant’s security deposit to cover that cost. You can also use the deposit if your tenant does not provide proper notice before moving out. If the lease term ends on April 30, but the tenant moves out in March without paying April’s rent, you can use the deposit to cover that.
Paying for Property Damage with Security Deposits
Any damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear is fair game for the security deposit. Small nail holes in the walls may be frustrating to fix, but it’s your responsibility. Large holes, however, can be charged. Scuffed carpet in high traffic areas is likely wear and tear. Torn carpet or large stains is damage, and you can use the deposit to pay for that cleaning or replacement. Any appliances, doors, windows, or other parts of the property that need to be repaired or replaced due to abuse or neglect can also be paid for out of the deposit.
Cleaning Costs and Security Deposits
The cost of cleaning the property after the move out is something you can use the security deposit for, but you’ll need to only make the property as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in. This is why your move-in condition report is so critical. You can show the need for professional cleaning by providing before and after photos of how the rental home looked and whether it was clean.
Irvine property managers can only withhold the exact amount that’s necessary and reasonable. If you’re going to keep $150 for a refrigerator door that needs to be repaired, for example, you’ll need to have an invoice that shows the $150 cost. You can’t simply estimate that’s what it will cost.
If there’s going to be a dispute, it’s likely going to be around those items that the tenant believes is simply wear and tear. Remember that you cannot use the deposit to pay for painting, new carpets, or window treatments and appliances unless they are damaged beyond ordinary and reasonable wear and tear.
If you’re not sure what you should be using the security deposit for in your Irvine rental home, we’re prepared to help you navigate this process. Contact us at HCM Property Management.