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Subject:  CA Small Claims - lesson learned Date:  1/1/2013  1:46 PM
Author:  JonathanRoth Number:  4698 of 5726

I've been fairly lucky with avoiding court, in 11+ years, 1 eviction and 1 or 2 small claims actions. Each time I've gone to court I learn something and change my contract to reflect what I learned which is often not from my case but from listening to other cases.

Last week one of my tenants, who in turn is also a landlord was taken to small claims by one of his former tenants. Here's the back story:

My tenant, I'll call him Jim, gave a PIA tenant 45 days notice of termination (CA requires a 30 day minimum.) 10 days later the tenant moves out giving 1 day notice. As the property was in good shape Jim keeps 30 days rent as called for in the contract and in state law and refunds the rest of the security deposit.

The tenant sues claiming since Jim was terminating the tenancy, he had no right to keep any of the security deposit for rent.

The judge started to agree until Jim handed him a copy of the relevant CA Civil Code with the appropriate section highlighted. Decision in favor of landlord.

My take away:

Don't assume the judge is knowledgeable about Landlord/Tenant law, bring a copy of the relevant statutes with you.

For those of you with properties in CA here's a link to the appropriate section of CA civil code:

Section 1951.2 deals with early departure
Section 1950.5 deals with security deposits
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