In California, landlords cannot retain security deposits at the end of tenancy in bad faith. If a landlord provides an itemized statement of deductions but fails to disclose that it was written by a family member (who made them outrageously high), would it result in punitive damages?


A landlord may have an agent, whether an employee or a family member, prepare an itemized statement of deductions on the landlord's behalf. The landlord is just as responsible for its contents as if the landlord had prepared it personally, and the tenant need not know or care who actually prepared it. If it is knowingly excessive, that may constitute bad faith no matter who prepared it. The tenant's options for challenging the statement of deductions are not changed based who exactly prepared the list.

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  • But since "excessive" is a subjective term, wouldn't it be more obvious that it's excessive (that is, subjective) when a family member was asked to prepare it rather than a neutral third party? Also, wouldn't disclosure of that fact be expected in good faith? – Gabor Sep 22 '19 at 14:56
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    @Gabor No and No. "excessive" can be measured reasonably objectively by determining the fair market costs for the various items, and checking the physical facts to see if the items actually apply. The landlord may properly delegate the duty of inspecting and preparing a list of items requiring attention to anyone s/he chooses, or prepare it personally -- it makes no difference, nor is the landlord required to notify the ex-tenant of who prepared the list. (Nor would an employee be "neutral".) Focus on the list and the validity of items on it, not on who prepared it. – David Siegel Sep 22 '19 at 15:09

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