Triple threat (tenants rejoice and landlords beware!)

It’s a classic story. You lease an apartment. Everything is wonderful. You move out and are supposed to get your deposit in the mail. What you get back wouldn’t buy you a large popcorn in the movie theater. Accompanying your measly check is an ambiguously worded explanation and a checklist which includes: paint, carpet, carpet padding, cleaning fee, processing, supplies, etc. The place looked spotless or at least copacetic when you left it.

They have your money. They have a team of lawyers. You have a check worth a large popcorn, need the deposit for a new apartment and are up a creek without a paddle. What is a tenant to do? Guess what? California Civil Code Section 1950.5 comes to the rescue! It’s a triple threat!

Section 1950.5 says that if your landlord in bad faith retains your deposit, you can be awarded statutory damages equal to twice the deposit amount, in addition to whatever real damages are awarded. That means if your real damages are the full deposit, you can be awarded up to three times the deposit amount in all. Pretty awesome huh?

So next time you get that B.S. list of new paint and carpet don’t cash that check! File a breach of contract suit and ask for real and statutory damages under Section 1950.5. It might buy a whole lot more than popcorn.

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