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Security Deposits

Handling Security Deposits and Normal Wear and Tear for Your Sacramento Home


As rental property owners, all of us want our homes to come back to us in the same great condition that they were in when we rented them out. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. There will always be something that needs attention; maybe the cleaning wasn’t done properly, or light bulbs weren’t changed. You may have miscellaneous items that need to be deducted from the security deposit.


When you handle the security deposit, you have to be aware of the law. In California, you have 21 days to return a security deposit to a resident. If you don’t, that resident can sue you for up to two times the amount of the deposit that was given. That’s not a situation you want to be in.


After a resident moves out, you’ll need to walk through the property to assess the condition. A check in sheet is a great tool that can help you determine what you should and should not charge the security deposit for. You can complete this on your own or with the tenant at the time of move in. It will tell you the state of the home when the resident moves in, and you’ll be able to compare it to the state of the home when that same resident moves out.


Remember that you must allow for normal wear and tear. It’s not always easy to determine the difference between damage and wear and tear. This is one reason why hiring a professional property manager can be useful. Generally speaking, paint has an expected life of three years and carpet has a six year life span. If your resident moves into a freshly painted home and then moves out after a year, you might notice some areas on the wall that need touch up paint, or maybe nail holes need to be filled in. It’s natural to want to charge the tenant for the entire amount because they got a freshly painted home when they moved in. However, you are required to give them their one year wear and tear credit.


Deciphering what portion of the paint bill should be charged to the tenant can be complicated, and this is what we do on a daily basis as property managers. In the end, most security deposits will have some deductions on them, and you have to do it right. For example, if you keep more than $125 of the deposit, you must provide the residents with receipts for the work that was done. We think it’s a great idea to include those receipts no matter what the amount. It eliminates confusion and enhances communication.


If you have any questions on how to return a security deposit or distinguish between damage and wear and tear, please contact us at Sacramento Delta Property Management.


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