If you’re moving out, you need to make sure you take care of all the things that you’re responsible for as a tenant so there won’t be problems later on. In this guide, we’ll also give you some pointers on what you can do to get your security deposit back, as well as what the law says your landlord can and cannot do. Be aware of your rights!

30 Days Notice to Landlord

– For either month-to-month or end of the term lease, a 30 days notice to the landlord is almost always required.

– Request a walk through with the landlord or manager, and document the conditions of the rental unit.

– Make sure the landlord/ manager knows where he/she can send the reminder of the security deposit (a forwarding address).

Getting your Security Deposit back

In California, the landlord needs to send the deposit, or an itemized list along with the rest of the security deposit, to the tenant within 21 days. According to Civil Code 1950.5, if the tenant does not receive either within three weeks, he/she may sue for up to $600 in punitive damages for ?bad faith? retention.

Itemized Statements – If the landlord deducts from your security deposit, he/she needs to send the tenant an itemized statement, a detailed listing of the reasons for deduction. The statement should be detailed and exact.

Security Deposits, according to Civil Code 1950.5 can be used for?

1. Compensation for a tenant?s default in rent payments

2. Repair of damages to the premised caused by the tenant, beyond ordinary ?wear and tear?

3. Cleaning of premises, if necessary, upon termination of tenancy

4. If the agreement allows, to restore, replace, or return personal property (such as keys)

Final inspection

After the tenant has moved his/her belongings out and cleaned up the rental unit, he/she should arrange a final inspection. It is recommended that the tenant is present, and documents the condition of the rental unit along with the landlord.

If possible, sign a checklist agreeing upon the condition of the unit or take pictures and have witnesses

Ending Tenancy Early

If you wish to end your tenancy early, you cannot simply decide to stop paying your rent and leave – With the exception of inhabitability, evictions and certain other arrangements, California Law requires that the tenant breaking the lease early must make every effort to lessen loss on the part of the landlord, and is responsible for paying any losses that the landlord occurs as a result of your electing to end your tenancy early. Here are some different methods you can use to attempt to end your tenancy early.

1. Assignment: Contract is transferred from Tenant A to Tenant B

– New tenant is directly responsible to landlord for payment or rent, damage to unit, and any other lease provisions

– Old tenant retains liability for any remaining rent under the terms of the lease, as well as any failure on the party of the new tenant to fulfill obligations (unless there is a novation)

– A Novation is a written agreement between the landlord and the original tenant which absolves the latter of all future liability in the event of an assignment

Landlord can require prior consent, or forbid the practice altogether, in the rental agreement

2. Subletting: Tenant wishes to temporarily vacate and lease unit to sub-tenant

– Original tenant retains all liability for the unit

– Sub-tenant accountable only to the original tenant (the ?master-tenant?)

– The master tenant may not charge the sub-tenant a higher rent than he/she is paying the landlord

– Landlord can require prior consent, or forbid the practice altogether, in the rental agreement.

3. Breaking the Lease: Alternative to assignment for tenant who wishes to move out prior to expiration of fixed-term lease

– Mitigation of Damages (Civil Code 1951.2): Tenant is only responsible for landlord?s actual losses. A landlord must show that he/she made reasonable efforts to minimize his/her losses.

Find a replacement tenant to minimize losses. If you do everything possible to find a new tenant (flyer, show the apartment, talk to potential tenants, etc) and compile list of potential tenants, then you lessen the impact and cost to the landlord, thereby saving you money also. Landlords can only reject potential tenant for a commercially valid reason (credit check)

– Lock-in Provision (Civil Code 1951.4)

Landlord is not required to mitigate damages and a tenant is still liable if the rental agreement clearly states:
1. That the landlord will not unreasonably restrict the ability of the tenant to assign or sublet; and
2. That the landlord intends to use the remedy as provided by this law.


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