How do I handle tenant property damage in California?

As a landlord, dealing with tenant property damage can be a frustrating and stressful experience. In California, landlords have specific legal obligations when it comes to handling tenant property damage. In this article, we will discuss the steps you need to take to handle tenant property damage in California.

What is Tenant Property Damage?

Tenant property damage refers to any damage caused by a tenant to the rental property or any of its contents. This can include damage to walls, floors, appliances, fixtures, and furniture. It can also include damage caused by pets or guests of the tenant.

Steps to Handle Tenant Property Damage in California

Document the Damage: The first step in handling tenant property damage is to document the damage. Take photos and videos of the damage and make a detailed list of the items that were damaged.

Notify the Tenant: Once you have documented the damage, you need to notify the tenant in writing. The notice should include a description of the damage, the estimated cost of repairs, and a request for the tenant to pay for the repairs.

Give the Tenant Time to Respond: The tenant has a right to respond to the notice and dispute the charges. You should give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to respond, typically 30 days.

Make Repairs: If the tenant agrees to pay for the repairs, you can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the tenant’s security deposit. If the tenant disputes the charges, you may need to take legal action to recover the cost of repairs.

Return the Security Deposit: Once the repairs have been made, you must return the tenant’s security deposit, minus any deductions for repairs.


Can I charge the tenant for normal wear and tear?

No, you cannot charge the tenant for Normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is the expected deterioration of the property over time due to normal use. Examples of normal wear and tear include faded paint, worn carpet, and minor scuffs on walls.

What if the tenant refuses to pay for the repairs?

If the tenant refuses to pay for the repairs, you may need to take legal action to recover the cost of repairs. You can file a lawsuit in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you in court.

Can I withhold the security deposit for unpaid rent?

Yes, you can withhold the security deposit for unpaid rent. However, you must provide the tenant with an itemized list of deductions and the remaining balance of the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out.


Handling tenant property damage in California can be a complex process, but by following the steps outlined in this article, you can protect your property and your rights as a landlord. Remember to document the damage, notify the tenant in writing, give the tenant time to respond, make repairs, and return the security deposit. By doing so, you can ensure that your rental property remains in good condition and that you are fairly compensated for any damage caused by your tenants.

Kurby Team

The Kurby Content Team is a diverse group of seasoned real estate experts dedicated to providing insightful, reliable information for homebuyers, real estate investors, and real estate agents. With backgrounds ranging from real estate brokerage, property investment, and residential home buying, our team combines decades of experience with a passion for demystifying the real estate world. We at Kurby are committed to helping you make informed, successful real estate decisions. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or a real estate professional, count on the Kurby Content Team to deliver the most relevant, actionable real estate content you need.