Costa Mesa, CA asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: Can a landlord seek payment for damages discovered a few months after the security deposit was returned?

I was renting out a room in my condo but was stuck overseas when COVID happened. When the renter decided to leave, I asked her if there were any damages I should know of, and she said “no”. My dad had a look at the room (since I was away) and signed off so she could get her security deposit back. (July)

I just got back into town and saw that there were damages on the walls from installations. The contract clearly states “no alterations without landlord approval”, so this is a blatant violation.

The closet railing is damaged (the sliding doors won’t slide open properly and get stuck).

My vacuum cleaner is damaged.

The bedroom light I had given her is destroyed.

My toolbox is missing.

She is ignoring all of my calls and emails. In Germany, the landlord has up to 6 months to return a tenant’s deposit for this reason — just in case damages are found later that the tenant tried to cover up.

Is there anything I can do? This is in Santa Clarita, CA.

Thank you!

2 Lawyer Answers
Maurice Mandel II
Maurice Mandel II
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Newport Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You have a conflict with two areas of law. First, the LL's duty to provide a tenant with a security deposit, within 21 days, with an inspection and itemization of damages withheld. You did this, and a problem for you is that your "agent" -- Dad- failed to discovery the problems and signed of on it. This is binding on you, so it becomes a big problem in the next part. The other area in conflict is the statute of limitations for damage to property. You are within that and could sue the tenant for the damages, Small Claims- btw. BUT your agent signed off on the property. If I were hearing the case I would find for the tenant because you are bound by the acts of your agent.

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1 user found this answer helpful

Manuel Alzamora Juarez
Manuel Alzamora Juarez PRO label
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Licensed in California


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