The total amount charged for security deposit can't be more than the amount of 2 months' rent for an unfurnished rental unit or 3 months' rent for a furnished unit.

In California, it is unlawful for a security deposit to be "non-refundable." However, the law allows landlords to retain part or all of your deposit under certain circumstances, such as if you move out and still owe rent, or if you leave the rental property in damaged condition.

Within 21 days after you move out, your landlord must send you a full refund of the security deposit with itemized lists of reasons and amounts of any withheld amount.

Make sure your lease clearly states that the amount of the security deposit and the date you paid it. If you paid by check, you may also want to note the check number on the rental agreement. 

The law allows landlords to retain all or part of your deposit under certain circumstances such as:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Cleaning fee for the property after you move out, if the property was not left as clean as when you moved in
  • Replacing or restoring furniture, appliance or other items that belongs to your landlord
  • Any damage beyond normal wear and tear that are caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests

Landlords do not have to return the security deposit to anyone other than the person who originally paid that deposit on the lease. For roommates living together, it is important to understand the best way to deal with the security deposit. If the tenant who paid the deposit moves out while the other tenant stays, it is a good idea to have the landlord pay the security deposit back to the person leaving and then have the remaining tenant pay a new deposit on the lease. This will ensure that the new tenant will be able to get the security deposit back when s/he chooses to move out.