Landlord-tenant law can vary quite a bit from state to state, but California is fairly “tenant-friendly” in its terms. New changes to the laws regarding rentals make it even more so.
In general, landlords are limited in how much of a security deposit they can demand from new residential tenants to just two months rent for an unfurnished apartment or home and three months for a furnished one.
SB 644, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, additionally limits landlords when the renter is a service member. When that applies, landlords may not demand more than one month’s rent for any kind of unfurnished unit or two months worth of rent for one that is furnished.
There are some exceptions, however. The restrictions don’t apply when the property is rented to a group of people and at least one of them is not the service member’s spouse, partner, dependent or parent. Nor does it apply if the tenant has a history of destroying rental property in the past.
In addition, tenants have a right to have their security deposit returned to them within 21 days of their move out. Those funds also cannot be reduced for just ordinary “wear and tear” on a rental unit. A landlord can keep some or all of a security deposit, however, when the tenant defaults on the rent, leaves the unit with excess damage, violated the lease or failed to clean the place after leaving.
Landlords and tenants frequently clash over security deposits. If you’re unsure of your rights, it may be wisest to speak with an attorney about any problems you may have.