Everybody’s guide to Small Claims Court in California

Preparing for my day in court to get the remaining $210 of my security deposit back from landlord Bill Newland. I rented a unit at 601 Minnesota St in San Francisco for 15 months. Bill thought that I didn’t stay long enough, and decided to dock me for repainting the unit, which is not allowable under California law. This book has some good tips on how to prepare for small claims court. Giddyup!
Update– this is a helpful book, really detailed. The 15 or so pages on security deposits convinced me that I had a case. I sent my demand letter (see below), and 5 days later received a check for the remaining $210, with a petulant handwritten letter from the landlord complaining that I was the first tenant in 13 years who had threatened small claims court. Thanks Bill! I’m the first tenant who stood up for herself? Glad to hear it. At any rate, no further need for this book.
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Received letter 6/18
From Bill: “…You moved in 3/20/04 with an $1825 deposit and moved out 6/9/05, approximately 15 months later… I know your circumstances changed but I was disappointed you moved out so soon as we have additional expenses to return the unit to rentable condition. My painter charged $210 to touch up and repaint areas of the unit… which I believe fair to charge you after such a short tenancy…”
My response 6/23:
“Dear Bill,
I received a partial payment of my security deposit from you and would appreciate your prompt payment of the remaining $210. You deducted $210 from the deposit to cover the cost of painting the unit. Since I did not paint the unit while I stayed there, I assume the paint job was to cover a few scuffmarks on the walls, e.g. normal wear & tear.
I moved into the unit on 3/20/04 and moved out almost fifteen months later on 6/9/05. The term of my lease was twelve months. I had my walk through of the apartment with Mike K., the building manager, on 6/9/05. Mike pointed out 3 areas that needed additional cleaning (top of cabinets, kitchen roof, bathtub) which I took care of that day. I was never informed that I was on the hook to pay for painting the apartment. Had I been told so, I would have purchased a small amount of paint for less than $10 to cover the few scuffmarks on the wall that your painter took care of.
Additionally, the receipt you furnished with your explanation of the deduction is suspect. The receipt states that the work was performed at units 202 and 218, and you have crossed through “202” in 2 places on the receipt, and have handwritten “218” to replace “202”.
Lastly, I put $200 worth of improvements into the unit by installing additional storage/shelving by the closet at the back of the unit.
Please send a check for $210 on or before June 30. If I don’t receive payment by that date, I’ll file this case in small claims court.”
From Bill, 6/28:
“I received your registered letter of June 22. You’re the first tenant in thirteen years to threaten to take me to small claims court… I do not wish to spend more time on this and am enclosing the remaining $210 of your deposit.”
Well, thanks Bill.


auth=Warner, Ralph
pub=2003