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What if I skip the last month?

July 19, 2009|Martin Eichner

Question: I'm thinking about moving out of my apartment and back into my parents' home. My security deposit is quite large, and it would help me financially if the landlord allowed me to use all or part of it for my last month's rent. What can the landlord do if I don't pay the last month's rent?

Answer: Check your rental agreement to see how the "deposit" is defined and whether there are any limitations.

Landlords are not obligated to use security-deposit funds as last month's rent. If your landlord does not agree to use your deposit for the last month's rent, he or she can serve a "3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit." To prevent possible legal action for eviction known as an unlawful detainer, it is advisable to pay the rent within the required period.

Before you decide not to pay the rent, you may want to discuss the situation with the landlord. Depending on the relationship the two of you have and perhaps after viewing the condition of your unit, he or she may be willing to help you out. According to Civil Code 1950.5, security deposit funds can be used for damage caused by a tenant or his or her guests, for any past-due rent or for any necessary cleaning after a tenant vacates.

-- Martin Eichner, Project Sentinel


Eichner is director of housing counseling programs for the Sunnyvale, Calif., mediation service. To submit a question, go to

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