Security Deposits as a Landlord – Depreciation and Wear & Tear in Sacramento

Our topic today is security deposits. Surprisingly, managing a security deposit is a very simple process if you know what you’re doing. However, they get landlords into court a lot of the time. These are some of the things you need to consider when you’re dealing with your tenant’s deposit.

Time Limits

One reason landlords find themselves in court is that they don’t pay attention to the security deposit deadlines. You have a specific time limit to close out the security deposit, and you have to get it right. Return the security deposit on time, and if you don’t know the exact amount of what you’ll need to deduct for damages, you can give an estimate instead of a final calculation within that timeframe. You just need to know how to do this properly.

Wear and Tear

You cannot charge a tenant for wear and tear in your property. Owners aren’t always sure what to charge for and they sometimes want to withhold money from the security deposit for everything. In California, you cannot charge for normal wear and tear, so it’s important that you know the difference between normal wear and tear and damage.


When you are going to charge the tenant’s security deposit for damage or repairs, you need to have everything documented accurately. Invoices have to be properly labeled with the tenant’s address and a list of the costs for repairs, labor and materials. When the tenant is charged, they should be able to see what they are being charged for. When your documentation is thorough, you have fewer disputes.


Carpet, paint and appliances have a lifespan that is usually between two to seven years. Understand the depreciation schedule of the things in your property and know what you can and cannot charge when a tenant moves out. For example, if you have a 15-year-old stove and it stops working when a tenant moves out, you cannot in most cases charge the tenant for the replacement of that stove.

If you have any questions about how to manage your tenant’s security deposit, or you need help understanding the process, please contact us at Smooth Sailing Realty and Property Management.

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