Landlords in California have a right to be compensated when their tenants damage property. This is set out in our state’s civil code, which states that landlords are allowed to sue for damages caused by tenants. In some cases, landlords may also be able to evict tenants who have caused damage.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Rights Do Landlords Have When Tenants Damage a Property in California?

If your tenant causes significant damage to your property, you may be able to charge them for the repairs. However, minor repairs for normal wear and tear don’t count.

What is Normal Wear and Tear in a Rental Property?

Normal wear and tear is defined as the “reasonable and necessary deterioration that occurs over time, even when the property is well-maintained.” This can include things like scratches on hardwood floors, fading paint, or a stained carpet.

On the other hand, damage caused by tenants is not considered normal wear and tear.

What is Not Considered Normal Wear and Tear on a Rental Property?

Damage that is caused by tenants and is not considered normal wear and tear can include:

  • Holes in walls
  • Broken windows
  • Damaged floors
  • Stains on carpets
  • Water damage

If your tenant has caused any of this type of damage, you may be able to charge them for the repairs.

How to Prove That a Tenant Caused Damage to Your Property

If you want to charge your tenant for damage they caused, you will need to be able to prove that they were responsible. The best way to do this is with photos or videos of the damage, as well as witness testimony.

You should also keep records of any complaints you made to the tenant about the damage, as well as any repair bills. In a case like this, you’re probably best-served by talking to an attorney.

Can You Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit in California?

In California, you can keep a security deposit for the following reasons:

  • To cover unpaid rent
  • To pay for damages that the tenant caused (beyond normal wear and tear)
  • To clean the unit when the tenant moves out

If you want to keep a portion of the security deposit, you must provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages and the cost to repair them. You must also provide this within 21 days of the tenant moving out.

Working With a Property Manager

If you have a rental unit, you may want to work with a property manager. Your property manager can handle all the issues related to damage, wear and tear, and other problems for you; that way, you don’t have to worry about a thing.

What if Your Tenants Cause More Damage Than Their Security Deposit Will Cover?

If your tenant causes damage that exceeds the amount of their security deposit, you may be able to sue them for the additional damages. In order to do this, you will need to prove that they caused the damage and that it was not due to normal wear and tear. You should also keep in mind that, even if you win a lawsuit against your tenant, there’s no guarantee that you will actually collect the money.

The Bottom Line

Landlords in California have a right to be compensated when their tenants damage property. If you want to charge your tenant for damage, you will need to be able to prove that they were responsible. You may also be able to keep a portion of the security deposit. If the damage is significant and the security deposit doesn’t cover it, you may be able to sue your tenant. However, even if you win, there’s no guarantee that you will actually collect the money.

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