Maria, Other/Just Looking in San Francisco, CA

Landlord Use of Deposit, please help!!!

Asked by Maria, San Francisco, CA Mon Dec 1, 2008

When my family and I left our rental property. My landlord gave us a 3 item list of things she found wrong with the property. Very minimal: kitchen floor being dirty, stove uncleaned, and refrigerator. As soon as we received the deposit back. Our landlord deducted for 15 more items, not placed on the list ($600): Testing of electricals, placing new door knobs, placing new switch place plates and then added the hours labor. Our landlord mentioned they hired a contractor to fix some items in the house. These were the items she did not see during her inspection. Furthermore, she used a contractor unlicensed, no one picks up the company phone when I call, the address is a resident, and the invoice looks like I can put it together in Word. Is this right?

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Inactive Pro…, , New York, NY
Tue Dec 2, 2008
While all these answers are true, one must look at timeframes as well. A landlord generally has 21 days to itemize all deductions from the deposit in California. Even if damage had occured, if by chance the 21 days passed without a true and correct itemization, the landlord is on the hook for the repairs themself. It sounds like there were two sepearate itemizations/breakdown of the deposit. Did both these occur before the 21 days after your move out date? Was it in writing?

Would love to know more.
1 vote
Cheryl Bower, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Mon Dec 1, 2008
Hi Maria,

I'm sorry to hear about your challenges with your landlord. Did she happen to use a walk through checklist at the time of your moving in and again at the time of your moving out? This checklist is a great way to avoid security deposit disputes since both parties can refer to the checklist to recall the condition of a unit at the time of move in.

Normal wear and tear (which can be challenging to define) is not supposed to be charged to a tenant. It does sound like she’s being unfair in charging you for additional items after she gave you her first itemization of the unit.

Here is a link to the SF Rent Board:

Good luck in getting this resolved.
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3 votes
Cathy & Mark…, Agent, Santa Barbara, CA
Mon Dec 1, 2008
Most communities have an Association that helps tenants and landlords with rental issues. You might see if there is one in your community. Either look on the internet for them or call a local Realtor and ask them if there is a rental Association in the community.
1 vote
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Mon Dec 1, 2008
It depends on how your contract is authored. Lucky you received any amount back when leasing from an individual property owner. Most contracts state property restored to how it was leased to you and you are responsible for any work bring back to certain condition.
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1 vote
David, , La Jolla, CA
Mon Dec 1, 2008
take a look at your lease. Its does not sound like they are playing fair. However, that being said, there are times when things that are uncovered after the initial inspection.

On everything that you mentioned that was repaired after the fact, was it notated in the original lease that new door knobs needed to be installed or if they were damaged prior to moving in.

Unfortunately, the only recourse I see is a small claims case.

This forum will provide you with more help..
1 vote
Julie Cleland, , South San Francisco, CA
Fri Feb 13, 2009
I would suggest you contact the San Francisco Tenant's union ( They are an excellent resource for answering questions as they pertain to tenant's rights in the city of San Francisco. They can advise you on both California law in general and on SF law specifically. It is my understanding that unless the items are indictated on the final walk through you can not be charged for them. The tenant's unions can tell you what your rights are as well as give you advice on how you should go forward.
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