Tenants are generally liable for damages they cause but not for injury to property caused by normal use or wear and tear. Landlords with security deposits can deduct money owed to them for rent or damages at the end of the tenancy, but must follow statutory guidelines scrupulously. This includes providing the tenant with an itemized list of damages, signed under penalty of perjury, and written evidence of repair costs within 30 days of termination of occupancy. Landlords who improperly withhold any part of a security deposit – say, for example, by claiming a tenant caused damage that is not properly attributed to him or her – a suit for triple damages and legal fees could follow. When a landlord does not have a security deposit or the damages exceed what’s held, he/she can pursue a tenant in court for the amounts owed.
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