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    1. Ask the property provider, either over the phone or in writing, why there has been a

    delay in receiving your security deposit.2.Sendthepropertyprovideracertified,

    receipt-return letter, either requesting that your deposit be returned to you in full or asking for an itemized list of charges for cleaning and damages (See Sample Letter #1 on page 27). Unless you waive your rights to receipts, property providers are required to provide them for reconciliations in excess of $126.00. Dont forget to keep a copy!

    3. If you are unhappy with your returned security deposit, gather together your move-in and move-out Inventory and Condition Report, photos, and videos to review. Decide which charges you agree with and which you disagree with. Feel free to meet with staff at CHO for help. Put your dispute in writing describing the reasons the deductions are improper (see Sample Letter 2 on page 27)

    Deposit DisputesUnder CalifOrnia law, the provider of a rental unit is required to inform the tenant in writing of the status of the tenants security deposit, within 21 calendar days of a tenants move-out (Civil Code Section 1950.5). if the provider of your rental unit doesnt let you know what has become of your security deposit within this 21-day period, or you disagree with charges follow these steps:

    dispute resolution

    and include any evidence you have for the disputed charges. State in your letter the amount you believe should be returned to you.Sendyourlettercertified,receipt-return.

    3. If the property provider still does not provide a refund, an adequate accounting of your deposit, receipts, or return what you requested,callorvisitCHOtotakethefirststeps toward mediation with your property provider.

    4. If the mediation process fails to produce an acceptable outcome, CHO will give you informationthatyouneedtofileaSmallClaims Court action. (Information on Small Claims Court on page 30).

    5. New legislation makes it possible for a judge to award tenants up to twice the amount of the deposit in punitive damages if

    s/he determines that the property provider withheld a deposit in bad faith. However, judges rarely award the maximum penalty.

    Many tenants (and property providers) are under the mistaken impression that every time a rental unit turns over, or a certain number of years have passed, the landlord must supply a new paint job or clean drapes and carpets or some other kind of refurbishing.Unfortunately for tenants, the law almost never mandates cosmetic changes even badly needed ones. Here are some of the common misconceptions regarding rental sprucing-up:Paint. California landlords are not required to repaint at specified times. Unless the paint creates a habitability problem for example, its so thick around the window that the window cant be opened, or flaking lead paint poses obvious health risks the landlord can just let it go.Drapes and Carpets. As long as drapes and carpets are not so damp or full of mildew as to amount to a health hazard, and so long as carpets dont have dangerous holes or nails that could cause someone to trip and fall, your landlord isnt legally required to replace them.

    Windows. You are responsible for fixing (or paying to fix) a broken window that you or your guest intentionally or carelessly broke. If a burglar, vandal, or neighborhood child breaks a window, however, the landlord is usually legally responsible for the repair. File a police report and notify your landlord immediately. Broken windows can sometimes be a habitability problem.Rekeying Door Locks. Unfortunately, landlords are not legally required to change the locks for new tenants. However, if you tell a landlord in writing that you are worried about renting a unit secured by locks for which previous tenants (and perhaps their friends) have keys, most landlords rekey the locks. (If the landlord knows of your concern but does not respond, and you are attacked or your place is burglarized by someone using an old key, the chances of a landlord being held liable in a lawsuit go way up.) California landlords must, however, at least provide door and window locks.

    Common Misconceptions about Routine Maintenance

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    Sample Deposit Dispute Letters

    Security Deposit Sample Letter #1- Where is my security deposit and/or itemized receipts?[Date]

    Dear [Property Provider]:

    The purpose of this letter is to inquire about my Security Deposit. As I am sure you are aware, I was previously your tenant at [address of rental unit] and regularly paid rent to your office. In accordance with the lease, I vacated the apartment on [date], after cleaning in such a way as to satisfy all the criteria to which the rental agreement stipulated.

    It has now been [##] days since I moved out, but I have received neither a refund of my Security Deposit nor an itemized accounting of any deductions from that Deposit. I am aware of my rights under Section l950.5 of the California Civil Code. According to the law, I should have heard from you no later than 2l days after the date I moved out.

    I am now requesting that my security deposit of [$$$] be refunded to me. Please enclose an itemized list of any deductions posted against this deposit, together with copies of receipts supporting those deductions. If for some reason there are issues that need to be resolved beyond this letter, I am willing to mediate through the UCSB Community Housing Office.

    My first interest is resolving this as quickly and cooperatively as possible. Please contact me as soon as possible concerning this issue. I can be reached at [phone number]. Please send my deposit and any other relevant correspondence to me at this address: [tenants current address].


    [signatures and printed names and phone numbers]

    cc: Community Housing Office*

    Security Deposit Sample Letter #2- I deserve more money back and this is why.[Date]

    Dear [Property Provider]:

    Thank you for sending the balance of our security deposit for [address of rental unit]. While we agree with some of the charges, there are a few items that we have questions about or are contesting.

    Thecarpetdamageinthesecondbedroomwastherewhenwemovedinandwemadenote ofitonourInventoryandConditionreport.ItalsoappearsontheMove-InVideowedidwith theCommunityHousingOffice.WewillbehappytosendyouacopyoftheDVDifthat willbehelpful.


    THe leTTerS prOvided in THiS GUide are starting points for your own efforts to find a resolution for disagreements concerning your security deposit. neither text is intended to be definitive. adapt the text that most closely responds to your situation and reflects your own concerns. its important to avoid accusations and to maintain courtesy.

    any letter that takes issue with a deposit refund should be signed by every roommate, with a printed version of each name with each signature. we also recommend that you send a copy of the letter to CHO, indicating that you have done so with a cc: Community Housing Office notation after the signatures. if you do indicate that a copy has been sent to CHO, please ensure that a copy actually reaches us.

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    Wealsodisagreewiththe$15chargeforthemissingtowelrackinthebathroom.Whilewe didntnoteitinourInventoryandConditionReport,ourvideoshowsthatitwasnotthere whenwemovedin.

    We would like to resolve these issues quickly and will be happy to send you a copy of our videotapes. We are willing to mediate through the Community Housing Office if necessary. Please send me the requested balance of __$__ by __date__. I can be reached at [phone number]. Please send my deposit and any other relevant correspondence to me at this address: [tenants current address]. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


    [signatures and printed names and phone numbers]cc: Community Housing Office*

    Approaches to Security Deposit DeductionsWhen attempting to understand security deposit deductions here are some local approaches that might be helpful for you. While these suggestions are consistent with the law, they are not necessarily the law in this area. For more information we suggest you visit the California Department of Consumer Affairs website at and Drapes Useful Life RuleNormal wear and tear to carpets, drapes, and other furnishings cannot be charged against a tenants security deposit (page 22) but damage can be charged. One common method of calculating the deduction for carpet replacement prorates the total cost of replacement so that the tenant pays only for the remaining useful life of the item that the tenant has damaged or destroyed. Forexample:atenanthasdamaged,

    beyond repair, an eight-year-old carpet that has a life expectancy of ten years and a replacement carpet of similar quality will cost $1,000. The landlord can properly charge only $200 for the two years worth of life (use) that would have remained if the tenant had not damaged the carpet.

    Repainting Walls Length of Stay RuleOne approach for determining the amount that the property provider can deduct from the

    tenants security deposit for repainting, when necessary, is based on the length of the tenants stay in the rental unit. The following is an approach which assumes that interior paint has a three-year life. (Three years is generally the standard in the Santa Barbara area, although it depends on the property provider.)l