"When Will I Get My Security Deposit?"

Posted By: Tiffany Van Buren Housing Provider Tips,

It doesn't matter how bold of a typeface I use or that I have residents sign their initials next to the paragraph explaining the security deposit accounting and return process; regardless of this, one-third of departing residents will email me a few days after they've moved out to ask, "When will I get my security deposit?" It’s asked so often; I have prepared a statement that I copy/paste as a reply.

“Dear _______,

The return of security deposits is governed by California Civil Code 1950.5. This was referenced in the Move-Out Package you received, which contained the Acknowledgment of Intent to Vacate, the Notice of Right to Pre-Inspection, and the Move-Out Instructions. If you followed the Move-Out Instructions and the unit was left in clean, damage-free condition, this will likely accelerate the return of your deposit. Rest assured, we comply with state law and local ordinances, and your security deposit, plus interest, will be returned in accordance with CA Civil C 1950.5- within 21 days of lease termination.


Maybe not so surprisingly, quite a few of the now-former-residents doing the asking are the same then-current residents who forgot about their scheduled preliminary inspections and had to reschedule in the final days of their tenancies. When your residents don’t have that two-week lead time between their inspection and their move-out date, they might get so overwhelmed with their move-out that cleaning is the last thing on their minds. During the inspection I remind them that cleaning is a deductible expense from their deposit, and their opportunity to clean the unit to restore it to the condition it was received when they moved in is before they return the keys. If I come back to do their final walk-through and it’s not clean, they cannot return to the unit to do more ‘DIY cleaning’. If they’ve returned the keys, they’ve surrendered possession, period.

Per California Civil Code 1950.5, you have 21 days to return your residents’ security deposit funds. State law dictates that rental housing providers can apply deposit funds to compensate for unpaid rent, make repairs of damages to the premises excluding ordinary wear and tear, or remedy any other defaults under the terms of the lease, such as unpaid utility balances, unpaid pet/parking fees, or to replace lost keys, et cetera. You must also provide an itemized statement of your security deposit accounting. You can withhold up to $125 without furnishing receipts, but if you withhold >$125, be prepared to provide copies of your receipts, invoices, or photocopies of checks as proof of payment. Suppose you have a rent-controlled unit in Berkeley. In that case, you must pay interest on your resident’s security deposit upon move-out. The Rent Board has a security deposit interest calculator on their website; the percentage changes depending on the month of move-out.

Please visit the BPOA website Content Library, Rental Housing Forms, under the section titled, “When a Tenancy Ends,” to find our Security Deposit Accounting Statement. We have provided this form as a Word document so those with rent-controlled units can modify the “other” section to accommodate security deposit interest as a credit. If you have any questions, please contact Tiffany@BPOA.org.orgBPOA.org.orgBPOA.org.org.