Complicated "security" deposit issue, CA civil code 1950.5

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Hi, I will try to keep this post as short and to the point as possible, but there are several key facts here so please bear with me.

Last year three roommates and I moved into university owned apartments (there are apartments, not dorms but are still owned by the university) in California. Before moving in, we were required to pay last months rent but no security deposit. We also had an initial walk-through in which we noted any previous damages to the apartment before we moved in, and turned this into the university.

Upon the end of our year-long lease, I had asked the manager to send me an detailed invoice of the charges, since I did not want to be unfairly charged for any of my roommates' damages and I could not be there for the move-out inspection due to work.

The manager called me nearly four weeks after we had moved to verify that the original address I left was correct, and I returned her call the next day. I received the statement of damages a full month after we had moved out, and charges were as listed: painting $525, carpet: $75, parts: $2.47. They did not include copies of the invoice for the $525 painting as required by CA law.

I sent a certified letter a couple weeks later stating that we would not be responsible for the charges, since the California Civil Code states that landlords must send the bill within 21 calendar days.

Less than a week after receiving my letter, the university took the entire $602.47 from my financial aid. When I met with the housing administration, they tried to claim that the law did not apply since we did not pay a security deposit - what they fail to realize is that the law says "security" and defines this as including any prepayment of rent.

Another concern of mine is that the painting charges were so high. The apartment did not have new paint when we moved in, nor did we leave the place damaged. One of the administrators looked at the pictures of the apartment before they painted, and agreed that the painting charges seemed to be too much.

My most recent response from the university is that since our prepayment of last month's rent was in fact used to pay our last month's rent, and there was no balance in our "account" that the late bill they sent was still valid.

My questions:
1. Even though there was no security deposit to be returned, does the 21 day rule still apply?
2. Is the university correct that since the last month's rent was used up that the late bill was still valid?
3. Since the university did not supply a receipt for the painting charges, are these valid charges?
4. Should I seek legal assistance, even though it is only for $602? Or should I try to work with the university's Office of Ombudsman?
5. Also, I suspect that this has happened with hundreds of other students and my boyfriend says I may be able to start a class action lawsuit. Is he right?
To begin, did you take any pictures of the apartment when you left? Did you have any pictures of the apartment when you moved in? Did all of your roomates have to pay the same amount? What is their perspective on this bill? Did you write a letter contesting the charges applied to you?

I think before you start talking about class actions, you might want to find out more about the facts. I don't know that repainting is your responsibility but from what you're telling me, it seems like it may be. How much difference are we talking about - $50? $100? You need to find out yourself what a paint job would cost for a 3 bedroom apartment and I'm not sure that it's so out of reach, especially if it is what they paid. Given it's a public university, I'm not sure they'd risk problems to make such a small amount of money. Just my observations but you need to do a little research first.
No, we did not take pictures of the apartment when we left or moved in. As I said, we filled out a form and turned it into the university before we moved in stating the damages already there from previous tenants - holes in the wall, scuff marks, spots on the carpet, etc. Also, the university has pictures of the apartment after we moved out and before they painted, according to the assistant director of the housing office who I spoke with. She herself looked at the pictures and told me that the painting charges did in fact seem to be too much from what she saw.

As for my roommates, they have let me deal with the matter since I was the one who sent the letter stating that we would not pay since the university broke the 21 day rule. They were not charged for the amount, since it was taken out of my financial aid, but if the university continues to refuse to give me back the amount my roommates will pay their share, 1/4 of the costs.

I have not written a letter contesting the charges made to me, since I went to the housing office and spoke with them directly.

Repainting the apartment to its previous condition would be our responsibility, yes. Repainting the ENTIRE apartment is NOT our responsibility. As I have said, the paint was not new when we moved in. And according to an employee of the university, they did indeed charge too much for painting because they felt like putting a new coat of paint on the walls.

Please look at:
google: california tenant handbook, click on the third down, it is a pdf (I can't post links)
pages 58, and pages 50-52 specifically.

Page 58 deals with the painting, 50-52 with the 21 day rule.

I agree that the university would not want these problems over a small amount of money, but this is ~$600 x 100-150 apartments per year, just for this one building. It is not uncommon for this university to swindle its students out of money, especially if they assume the students don't know any better.

If the university doesn't follow the law, how do they expect students to do so as citizens or businesspeople either?

I don't want to start a class action, but if that's what it comes down to then so be it.

My main concerns are the questions I have posed in my first post:
1. Even though there was no security deposit/last month's rent to be returned, does the 21 day rule still apply?
2. Is the university correct that since the last month's rent was used up that the bill is still valid?
3. Since the university did not supply a receipt for the painting charges, are these charges still valid?
4. Should I seek legal assistance?
We are experiencing the same problem.

Being charged 600$ for painting....

Is there a law that states that photos are required?
lolufson, i absolutely agree with you.

I know there is also a prorated amount for the painting charges depending on how long you have resided at the place.

Less than 6 months - full cost
6 months to 1 year - two-thirds of cost
1 year to 2 years - one-third of cost
2 or more years - no deduction

I also have my own problem:

My two concerns are:

When the landlord charges for repainting of the walls, does he legally HAVE TO follow the above guidelines?

We have been charged $560(labor) + $118(paint/supplies) for painting 2 bedrooms, small hallway, bedroom doors, and closet doors.

That sounds a bit absurd. But since we did not take any pictures upon moving in or moving out. Can we legally demand photos from the landlord of the damages BEFORE all of the repainting were done? To show that these damages were beyond normal wear and tear?

Is the landlord legally responsible for showing us these photos as proof of damages? I couldnt not find that clause anywhere.

And IF we were following the guideline above, he can only charge us 2/3rd of the labor price ($560) ? or the combined labor/parts ($678) ?

Please help!
I apologize, vutek for such a delayed response. I am a student in my final year and have been quite busy.

In order to prove that the landlord overcharged for painting you would need pictures to prove this.

As stated in the handbook, the guidelines are not laws and the landlord does not need to strictly abide by them. But, these guidelines are based on previous cases on which judges may base similar cases.

As for the percentage of cost, I am not sure whether that includes labor or not.

I am still dealing with my situation and am in the process of seeking free legal help in my area. I hope you are having better luck with yours.

I'm assuming you live in California based on your reponse to the original poster.

If so, your landlord needed to have sent you documentation via receipts of the actual cost of work done to repaint these rooms. If the receipts were done by an outside source (i.e., someone other than the landlord) the charges would typically include labor in addition to supplies and the receipt would list the name, address, phone number of the independent contractor who did this work. In some cases, the landlord may have purchased the supplies and the contractor did the work. The contractors work would then reflect only the cost of their labor.

While the landlord is responsible for providing such receipts, there is nothing in the law that requires him/her to provide you with any pictures, either before or after the painting was done. He/she may have pictures to show to the court for justification that whatever needed to be done was to address damage above normal wear and tear should you decide to pursue this via the legal route.

Exact same Concern CA Civ 1950.5

Dear "Lolufson" user,

I am having a nearly identical dispute with my landlord as you mentioned in your original post from Sept. 2008. It involves a university housing situation (not dorms) in San Diego. If you get this message, I'd be interested in finding out the outcome of your situation. Please respond back.

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