Hi - I have a bit of a complicated tenant situation. I rented my house out to four roommates who all signed one lease. Three of them moved out this past Aug 30. However, one roommate decided to stay an extra month and moved out Sept 30. The other three roommates are demanding that I should have returned their deposit by Sept 21. according to the laws of returning it within 21 days (property is in California). However, I read that the 21 day count down to return the deposit starts when the last person moves out of the property. Does the countdown start after the last roommate moves out regardless if the others moved out a month earlier?
@Clifton Ho why are you keeping the deposit? Because maybe you technically can? If the lease ended for them you should give them the deposit, if they left before the lease ended then that is a new can of worms, if some left when it ended and the other person stayed, that person alone would then be on a month to month lease.
Bottom line is unless they caused damage give them their deposit back, they moved out and you already know the condition, you chose to continue renting to the 4th roommate, who should have been put on a new lease immediately once the others moved out.
@Aaron K. I am not intentionally holding the deposit. They caused damage and the kitchen appliances and flooring and I found out that they were housing a cat without permission which led to a flea infestation when they moved out. I was getting estimates and repairs. They did not leave the house in good condition to constitute a full deposit return. I did not chose to rent to them, they asked to stay an extra month. Shouldn't that continue the existing lease that they all signed together at least in terms of deposit addressment.
@Clifton Ho if you agreed to let them move out, then you should have immediately signed a new lease with the existing tenant who remained, you have had over a month to get estimates, and you obviously must have done some kind of walkthrough when they moved out or you wouldn't know the condition. You need to detail what is being deducted from their deposit, and provide them with that information, and most likely their remaining deposit back. It is still not clear if the lease ended and they decided to move or if the lease was still in effect and they are breaking it by moving.
I don't know what your next moves from a legal standpoint are here, but I'm pretty sure you are in the wrong and if they sue you they are likely to win. If I were you I'd get those deductions figured out immediately and hope they don't sue you, because based on your post the unit should be vacant now, and not only that it has been for a week which should have been enough time to get prices on everything, if you didn't go in before which it sounds like you may have.
I don't know California tenant law but get with a local real estate attorney for future instances. Security deposits tend to be the top reasons tenants get froggy and attempt litigation.
@Clifton Ho In California, you have until 21 days after the termination of the tenancy and the tenants have vacated the property to either return their security deposit or send them an itemized statement accounting for any deductions along with any remaining balance from their original security deposit (if there is any left).
Now, if I'm understanding you correctly, you had just one single lease with all of them listed on it and you only collected one security deposit on this lease initially. Then, some of the tenants moved out, and at least one of them did not. If that's the case, then the 21-day clock wouldn't have started until the final tenant moved out.
It couldn't start before then because they hadn't vacated the property OR returned possession of the property to you until the last of them and their property were out. Additionally, you wouldn't have been able to do your final inspection of the property before then (which you need to do for the final accounting of any security deposit deductions).
Perhaps these former tenants are just confused. But the law doesn't say you have to refund the security deposit every time one (or some) of the roommates moves out. Could you imagine how confusing and unworkable that would be for landlords?
In any event, more or different facts could always change my opinion, but if I understand that correctly, I don't think you did anything wrong.
Good luck and hope it works out for you.
Noone gets a penny of the security deposit until EVERYONE has moved out.
For the three tenants to want the security deposit back while the 4th person is living there is stupid as the 4th person could of course make damage.
Now that the place is vacant you can properly check for any damage and return any unused security deposit.
When did the lease end? If there was a single lease and they all paid through to the end, then it gets returned after that. If three didn't pay for the final month, then you should have started from that date and simply itemized the current damage and costs.
I essentially agree with @Kyle J. It does completely come down to how your lease was written. If this one lease was written with the term joint and several liability, you only collected one security deposit, and each resident was not responsible for a "portion" of the rent, but rather the entire rent, then when the other 3 moved out, they were still equally as responsible for the home as the 4th person. Did you have them sign anything removing themselves from the lease when they moved out? Again, if not, and the 4th person continued forward on a verbal month-to-month agreement, then the lease contract is still in effect. You would then have 21 days after the 4th person moved out to provide a full disposition of funds. Always refer back to your lease, and in the future, let each resident know what they are signing, and what it means when they move out even though the entire group is not moving out. (I am not a lawyer, this advice does not constitute actual legal advice, just my experience as a Property Manager in multiple states)
It doesn't really matter who vacated when, etc. They had a lease until the end of September so you return the deposit according to that timeline. You can't get a good hold on what damage was done until everyone is vacated so I think you are doing the right thing here and following your states laws in addition.
With all of that said, they won't sue you. This is common posturing tenants do. No lawyer will take this case because you are not in the wrong law wise.
@Clifton Ho . Ya, I pretty much ignore what tenants say, especially after they move out. The law is the law, and the damage is the damage. You document the damage, charge them, and move on. I wouldn't even respond to the tenants that moved out, other to say they will be notified in writing within the legal timeframe after all tenants have vacated the property. Respond once, and not again until you give them the itemized list of charges. I don't see anything to worry about here, other than to focus on getting the property available for new tenants. Of course, all that being said, it's California, so literally anything could happen.