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Residential Property Management/Rental damage exceeds security deposit - How to address this?



I have a tenant who will be moving out the 17th of this month. He has given me a security deposit that was the equivalent of what was one month's rent when he had first moved in 2 1/2 years ago. He has paid for this current month's rent.

My dilemma is this:

In the room he had rented, there damage to the floor that needs to be repaired. There is the cleaning, and painting the room to bring it up to speed and replacing a futon mattress I had let him use that he has destroyed.

To address all of these issues, this exceeds his security deposit.

He had told me that he is not going to clean the room; he is just intending on leaving, taking his things. He expects a full refund of his security deposit and the portion of his rent for the days he will no longer be renting here.

I am planning on giving him his portion of all of the money he has paid me, minus the total cost of fixing the floor, cleaning and painting the room, and replacing the mattress, bringing the room to what it was the day he moved in.

Is this the proper procedure to follow in this case? I live in CA.

Thank you for your time and attention to my message.

My opinion, having been both a lessee and agent-for-owner, is that the security deposit is just that--security against damage.  I'm assuming there is lease on paper that you and he signed.  If not, by law in most if not all states, there should have been one.  That lease will outline such a contingency.  For example, one boilerplate lease (a blank form on which little information, such as the date, the unit number and names change) says this:  "All parties agree that termination of this Agreement prior to termination date will constitute breach of the tenancy and all Security Deposits and one full month's rent shall be forfeited in favor of Landlord as liquidated damages plus you will be charged the cost of restoring the property to rental condition plus advertising and rent loss incurred until the new resident moves in."

Another one says:  "When the lease ends, tenant agrees to return the apartment to the same condition it was in at the start of the lease, other than normal wear and tear, except for those items that were noted on inspection and described at the end of this lease. Tenant will not be asked to pay for damage not cause by tenant, tenant's family or guests."  Further down, it says:  "Landlord has the right to bring a court action if tenant does not pay the rent, fails to cure a substantial violation of the lease..."  That's a double-edged sword, though, because this lease says you'd have to prove who did the damage and that it wasn't there before he moved in:  "If the apartment is damaged in part, so that certain rooms cannot be used and are not used, tenant will pay a proportional amount of the rent from the day of the damage. If the lease is not canceled or only a portion of the apartment is damaged, landlord will make all necessary repairs to make the apartment fit to live in within thirty (30) days. Tenant will begin paying full rent when the apartment is repaired and returned to a livable condition."

As I mentioned, it should all be spelled out on paper and it should have both of your signatures on it.   Please note that information obtained here should not be constituted as and does not substitute for legal advice.  I'd suggest you contact a local attorney familiar with landlord/tenant issues.

Leases quoted here can be found at:

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Adam L. Greenberg CPS


I have several years of experience in commercial property management, particularly in tenant retention but also in day-to-day tenant relations and service. Tenant relations and property management are the same whether residential or commercial--everyone takes he same licensing classes. It's the practical work experience that differentiates the two. I can answer questions relating to general topics but by law, because I was formerly licensed as a Real Estate Salesperson by The Missouri Real Estate Commission (2005-2014), I cannot give legal advice and as per Items #4 and #5 of the AllExperts User Agreement, and my answers may not be construed as such.


I began my career in property management with the residence hall operations at a large state university. I worked with everything that had to do with the tenants (students), from directly managing front desk operations to working behind-the-scenes with support staff. Professionally, for over six years, I was a member of a property management team which managed dozens of commercial and residential properties in Downtown Washington, DC; Arlington, Virginia; and Bethesda, Maryland. I also have an additional ten years of experience as a management agent for an absentee owner in Saint Louis, Missouri. I retired early in 2014 and I now live in Florida, which has provided me the experience of interaction with Homeowners' Associations (HOAs). Some of my Answers have reflected this experience.

Former member, Washington Area Concierge Association (WACA), Washington, DC Former member, St. Louis Association of REALTORS.

BA Speech Communication, University of Maryland, 1993 Graduate of American School of Real Estate, St. Louis, Missouri, 2005 Certified Property Management Specialist (CPS), 2010 Successful completion of Continuing Education courses in Ethics, Diversity

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