California Civil Code 1950.5 (b) states the Security Deposit:
"...is imposed at the beginning of the tenancy to be used to reimburse the landlord for costs associated with processing a new tenant or that is imposed as an advance payment of rent, used or to be used for any purpose, including, but not limited to, any of the following:
1. The compensation of a landlord for a tenant's default in the payment of rent.
2. The repair of damages to the premises, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, caused by the tenant or by a guest or licensee of the tenant.
3. The cleaning of the premises upon termination of the tenancy necessary to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy. The amendments to this paragraph enacted by the act adding this sentence shall apply only to tenancies for which the tenant's right to occupy begins after January 1, 2003.
4. To remedy future defaults by the tenant in any obligation under the rental agreement to restore, replace, or return personal property or appurtenances, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, if the security deposit is authorized to be applied thereto by the rental agreement."
Additionally, California Civil Code 1950.5 (e) states:
â€œThe landlord may claim of the security only those amounts as are reasonably necessary for the purposes specified in subdivision (B). The landlord may not assert a claim against the tenant or the security for damages to the premises or any defective conditions that preexisted the tenancy, for ordinary wear and tear or the effects thereof, whether the wear and tear preexisted the tenancy or occurred during the tenancy, or for the cumulative effects of ordinary wear and tear occurring during any one or more tenancies.â€
I would highly recommend that you review the section starting on page 53 (Refunds of Security Deposits) of the following document for guidance: http://docs.Steven-Anthony.com/Landlord-TenantGuideCA2010.pdf
Typically is is for actual damage for items not originally damaged or fully depreciated. Lets take a couple of quick examples. 1) PAINT. paint is considered fully depreciated after a very short time. Unless the home was freshly painted when you moved in, and your lease was short it is hard to collect against deposit for "damage". (The rule of thumb is 3 years but most PM's tell owners not to collect for paint dings after 2, and then its only nominal amounts.) If there are holes in the drywall though.... 2) CARPET. Similar to paint. Carpets have more staying power but it is hard to collect for damages when the carpet is 10 eyars old albeit in good shape. New stains and dirt can be hidden for short peoriods of time thorough quality professional cleaning techniques prior to walkthough. See my point?