Learn about security deposits, when they can be withheld, and what to do if you think you've been treated unfairly.
Before moving into a rental unit, you may be required to pay a security deposit (sometimes referred to as "last month's rent" or "cleaning deposit"). When you move out, your landlord may withhold all or part of your security deposit to offset any cleaning costs, repair costs, or any amounts you owe under the lease agreement. The remainder will be refunded to you.
The cost of your security deposit depends on the rental property. The total amount charged for any type of security deposit can't be more than the amount of 2 months' rent for an unfurnished rental unit or 3 months' rent for a furnished unit. It may combine the last month's rent plus a specific amount for "security" in the event of damage to the rental unit or rent left unpaid.
In California, it is unlawful for a security deposit to be "non-refundable." However, the law allows landlords to retain part or all of your deposit under certain circumstances, such as if you move out and still owe rent, or if you leave the rental unit in damaged condition. (Note: Your landlord can't use your security deposit for cleaning or repairing items damaged only by normal wear and tear, for repairing defects that existed in the unit before you moved in, or for cleaning a rental unit that is as clean as it was when you moved in.)
Within 21 days after you move, your landlord must either send you a full refund of the security deposit, or deliver or mail an itemized statement that lists reasons and amounts of any withholdings from the deposit. Any amounts not deducted must be refunded.