a consumer is saving money for a security deposit

Security Deposits

Your landlord can require a security deposit when you move in. Find out how much, what it can be used for, and when it must be returned.

Security Deposits

The landlord can require a security deposit when you move in. Security deposits include:

  • Cleaning fees
  • Key deposits
  • Last month’s rent
  • Pet deposits

Your first month’s rent is not a security deposit. ”Non-refundable” security deposits are against the law.

How much can the deposit be?

No more than two months’ rent for an unfurnished unit. For a furnished unit, the deposit cannot be more than three months’ rent.

What can my deposit be used for?

When you move out, your landlord can use your deposit for:

  • Rent you owe;
  • Repairing damage caused by you or your guests;
  • Cleaning if the unit is not as clean as when you moved in.

The landlord cannot use the deposit for repairs due to “ordinary wear and tear.”

When does my landlord have to return my deposit?

The landlord must return your deposit within 21 days after you move out.  If any deductions are made, the landlord must give you a written explanation. He must also give you a refund of the balance.

If your landlord does not return the deposit, or if you disagree with the amounts deducted, you can sue in Small Claims Court.  For more information, contact our Small Claims Advisors. Instead of going to court, you can also try our free mediation program to help you resolve the dispute.

What if the building is sold?

If your landlord sells the building, he must return your deposit or transfer it to the new owner. If neither happens, then both the old and new owners are responsible for returning your deposit.

Can I collect interest on a security deposit?

State law does not require landlords to pay interest on security deposits, but some local rent control laws do. Call your city’s rent control board at the following numbers:

  • Los Angeles, including the San Fernando Valley:
    Toll Free (866) 557-7368
  • Santa Monica: (310) 458-8751
  • West Hollywood: (323) 848-6450
  • Beverly Hills: (310) 285-1031

Can the landlord increase my security deposit during my tenancy?

Yes. However, your landlord must first give you a 30-day written notice.

Your landlord may not be allowed to raise your deposit if:

  • You have already paid the maximum security deposit allowed by law: two months rent for unfurnished units and three months rent for furnished;
  • You live in a rent-controlled unit,
  • You have a lease that prevents your rent from being raised.

Civil Code 1950.5

County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: Dec. 1, 2013

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