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I visited an apartment, which was ok, signed the lease, and when I moved in the landlord had the apartment professionally cleaned just before (which felt nicer).

As the lease ended, the landlord charged $450 for professional cleaning. The apartment was in a good state, pretty much the same as when it was visited. I'm asking the landlord to refund this.

The lease says "(iii) clean Premises, if necessary, upon termination of the tenancy;". It doesn't mention professional cleaning. The lease seemed "standard".

Is the landlord in his own right? This is in Santa Clara, California, if it makes any difference. Thanks

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  • How did they "charge", credit card? If not, then why did you pay it?
    – Greendrake
    Nov 10 '20 at 5:39
  • @Greendrake I paid a check when I moved in, they cashed it, and they didn't give it back in full 2 years later
    – Thomas
    Nov 10 '20 at 6:37
  • @Thomas Did they give you the receipt for the $450 cost.
    – Studoku
    Nov 10 '20 at 15:44
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No they can't.

The lease says the premises need to be cleaned without going into details how. You cleaned them yourself before moving out. If the landlord was not happy with that, they should have raised their concerns and discussed options.

The security deposit that the landlord holds is only supposed to be used when something goes wrong. When something goes wrong, the landlord is supposed to talk, not to silently chop off a slice of the deposit as they please (unless the lease allows it, which it does not here).

If the landlord refuses to refund, read the manual and go to small claims court to tell them where to get off.

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Probably, though it depends on a few factors.

From your account, you gave the landlord a security deposit when you moved in. This is very common and is used for this exact purpose. Keeping the deposit themselves is legal under California law (in other jurisdictions they would have been obliged to use a registered deposit scheme).

The landlord can withhold part of the deposit for certain reasons, including "Cleaning costs after your tenant leaves the property to make the property as clean as when your tenant first moved in".

Your landlord must, within 21 days, give you the following:

  • A written summary of the withheld deposit and their reasons
  • An itemized list of every deduction
  • Receipts for the deductions
  • The remaining deposit

Assuming they have, you will need to contact the landlord by certified mail with your dispute and reasoning. They then have 10 days to resolve it. If after 10 days, this is not resolved, you will need to persue the money through small claims court.

Have all the evidence you can get ready- you will need to demonstrate that the property when you moved out was in an equal or better state of cleanliness than when you moved in.

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    They do have an obligation to be economical with your money under the duty of good faith and fair dealing that attaches to every lease since they must be reasonable in the discretionary implementation of the lease terms, and they are only entitled to charge for cleaning if it is actually needed. In practice, fighting over $450 on these issues may not be worth it, however.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 11 '20 at 1:36

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