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I moved out of a 2 bedroom apartment in Los Angeles under a month ago and have just received my deposit back with ~$1200 taken out for re-painting. This is for a below average size 2 bedroom apartment (just under 1,000 sqr ft) and during the move out inspection they didn't mention a full re-paint. During the move out inspection, the property manager only mentioned light touch ups, with wording along the lines of "repainting a few scuff marks, but it shouldn't cost you too much".

I know this is all soft wording and I don't have anything that explicitly states I can't be charged $1200, but do I have any ground to dispute this kind of bill in California?

I should also note that I didn't receive a detailed itemized bill, receipts, photos of the damage repaired with this amount, or any additional information. Just a paper (and check) stating the 2 deductions from the deposit ($1200 for repainting and $300 for cleaning).

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    How long did you live in the apartment? homeguides.sfgate.com/… suggests that paint is considered to have a lifespan of 2-3 years, so if you lived there longer than that, you are not supposed to owe anything for paint. – Nate Eldredge Sep 24 at 1:27
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    There's some more information at courts.ca.gov/1049.htm which makes it sound like you have a pretty good case to dispute the charge. – Nate Eldredge Sep 24 at 1:32
  • Further question: did you waive the move-out inspection?: law.stackexchange.com/questions/44946/… – user6726 Sep 24 at 1:56
  • I lived in the apartment for 1 year and I did not waive the move-out inspection. I should've clarified that the comment by the property manager was made during that inspection. Will edit now. – Konstantin Sep 24 at 1:58
  • Do you have photographs? – phoog Sep 25 at 4:56
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Given California law regarding security deposits, especially the part about the initial inspection, it seems that you had prior written notice of the damage to the paint, and relying on ?verbal statements by the landlord that it required "repainting a few scuff marks, but it shouldn't cost you too much", you let the landlord effect repairs (rather than doing it yourself). $1,200 is not a reasonable cost for a few scuff marks, though he may have taken advantage of this opportunity to get a total repainting of the apartment. If he hired a painter to do the job, he is required by law to document the expense (g(2)(B):

If the landlord or landlord’s employee did not do the work, the landlord shall provide the tenant a copy of the bill, invoice, or receipt supplied by the person or entity performing the work. The itemized statement shall provide the tenant with the name, address, and telephone number of the person or entity, if the bill, invoice, or receipt does not include that information.

Alternatively under (g)(2)(A):

If the landlord or landlord’s employee did the work, the itemized statement shall reasonably describe the work performed. The itemized statement shall include the time spent and the reasonable hourly rate charged.

The factual dispute would probably be the extent of damage to the paint. If he put "a few scuff marks" in writing, that would not support a total repaint; if the written notice simply said "damage to paint" with no implications of the extent of damage, then it would come down to what you vs. he said in courts, and who was more believable.

  • If the scuff marks are "ordinary wear and tear" the landlord cannot retain anything for painting over them. – phoog Sep 25 at 5:28
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In a normal residential lease, the tenant is responsible for damage beyond ordinary wear and tear.

Scuff marks may or may not be ordinary wear and tear depending on their severity and how they were caused. For example, scuff marks in a hall or stair caused by normal movement would be ordinary wear and tear and therefore the landlord's cost while a scrape caused by moving furniture in or out would be the tenant's cost. If these were tenant's issues they would have to be extensive and severe to justify a total repaint.

  • It seems that California law restricts claims for ordinary wear and tear regardless of the terms of the lease. The law linked in the other answer provides that "The landlord may not assert a claim against the tenant or the security...for ordinary wear and tear or the effects thereof, whether the wear and tear preexisted the tenancy or occurred during the tenancy, or for the cumulative effects of ordinary wear and tear occurring during any one or more tenancies." – phoog Sep 25 at 5:25

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