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Tenants Are Responsible for Cleaning Costs When They Vacate a Rental Unit

July 05, 1987

The language of the S. J. Diamond column on leases ("Tenants Should Know a Lease Isn't the Law," June 22) creates the impression that a landlord is not allowed to charge any fee for cleaning the apartment of an outgoing tenant.

Certainly, an apartment owner may not charge a renter for damages that preceded his or her tenancy; however, the story implies that an owner may not charge a present renter for damage and cleaning related to his tenancy.

The law and the courts do indeed allow owners to use the security deposit to clean apartments upon the termination of tenancies.

Costs to repair damages beyond normal wear and tear may be deducted from the security deposit before an owner returns the security deposit. (Differences over what constitutes normal wear and tear may be resolved by the parties themselves or by a court.)

The issue of security deposits causes strong feelings and many misunderstandings between owners and renters. It is in everyone's best interest to fully and correctly understand the law on this subject.


Director of Legal Affairs

Apartment Assn. of

Greater Los Angeles

Editor's Note--The question of cleaning deposits could use yet more clarification: California law says a security deposit may be used for cleaning the premises between tenants, but it also says that no portion of a security deposit can be non-refundable, or a mandatory fee. Thus, if the tenant leaves the place clean--a term tenant and landlord had better define at the outset--any amount designated for cleaning must be refunded.

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