Tenant Troubles: Is There A “What Lies Can We Get Away With This Month?” Group For Landlords?

As we’re getting ready to move out of our house, the landlady is telling us that she doesn’t have a deposit to return to us because two years ago a tenant who doesn’t live here anymore asked to pay reduced rent over a couple months.

The landlady says she agreed but never said or put anything in writing to anyone about wanting the back rent repaid until now, two years later. Isn’t she supposed to request repayment within one year?

Tenant Troubles Archives

Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com. Here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

I’ve received a couple of questions similar to yours in the last month or so. I also spoke to a tenant on the telephone about a landlord who claimed she couldn’t refund a security deposit for exactly the same reason. Different landlords, different tenants. What’s up?

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a “What Lies Can We Get Away With This Month?” working group of the Simple Minded Apartment Association of San Francisco. But that would be paranoid wouldn’t it?

Because landlords are not required to keep security deposits in separate accounts, they’ve already spent your money. Landlords have forgotten about your security deposit. Why haven’t you? It comes as no surprise that a new lie to justify withholding a security deposit would surface from the landlords’ collective subconscious. This seems to be the bullshit du jour.

Fortunate for you that this merde doesn’t bake well.

California Civil Code ยง1950.5(k)(1) states in part: “In any action under this section, the landlord or the landlord’s successors in interest shall have the burden of proof as to the reasonableness of the amounts claimed or the authority pursuant to this section to demand additional security deposits.”

Absent an agreement or other written proof, the landlord cannot meet her burden to prove that her “deduction” ever took place.

I am not aware of any requirement to request payment in a year. You may be confused with the requirement r=that a three-day notice to pay or quit can only demand rent going back one year.

When you write your demand letter, remind the landlord that she could be liable for statutory damages of twice the amount of the original security deposit for her bad faith claim.

Permit me to rant for a moment. Earlier this year State Senator Mark Leno introduced a bill (SB 603) to amend the security deposit law to include, among other things two issues I’ve noted here. It would have required landlords to keep security deposit in separate accounts and to pay interest on the amounts. It would have also required that a court must award statutory damages with a finding of a bad faith claim or retention of a security deposit. The current law says “may” and statutory damages are only assessed in about 3.5% of cases. The bill was defeated by Democrats! I can go on and on about fucking Democrats. Suffice it to say that Democrats are not necessarily tenant-friendly.

If landlords know they can lie to their tenants and the court about retaining a security deposit and only get a slap on the wrist, why wouldn’t they lie? Look out for more excretum tauri.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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