This post originally appeared on Burt M. Polson's Real Estate Journal and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.


A lease can be an often skimmed-over document with most not concerned about its contents until a problem arises or the lease expires and you are wondering what to do next.

A lease agreement is a long-term contract bringing together two parties that details the relationship and what to do when it goes awry.

In part one, you learned how a lease is a contract that creates a relationship which gives the tenant a right to use a property owned by the landlord.

In part two we discussed the commencement date and the responsibility of paying the rent promptly.

We will continue our discussion on the ten page CAR (California Association of Realtors) “Residential Lease or Month-to-Month Rental Agreement.” We are referencing terms of tenant law in the State of California, but keep in mind I am not an attorney so be sure to consult with one if you have specific questions.

Here is what to know regarding security deposits, the condition of the premises, maintenance, and damage.

The uses of the security deposit
Tenants are asked to pay the landlord a security deposit which can be used to pay for any delinquent rent and fees during the lease term, for any repairs, cleaning the premises if was cleaned inadequately, or replace any personal property belonging to the premises upon vacating.

The deposit charged can be any amount up to an amount equal to two month’s rent for an unfurnished property or three month’s if furnished. No deposit can be deemed nonrefundable.

If the deposit is used to pay the rent and late fee for a given month the tenant must replenish their deposit within five days of receiving notice of the occurrence. The landlord may deduct repair expenses for excessive wear and tear, to clean the premises, or to purchase an item that was not returned such as a garage door opener when a tenant vacates.

The landlord must provide an itemized list of the expenses deducted from the deposit along with paying the balance within 21 days of vacating by the tenant.

Move-in condition, maintenance, and damages
The lease allows for the tenant to list any items in poor condition or in need of repair upon lease commencement or at the time of moving in.

Whether the landlord and tenant walk-through the premises together using a checklist form or the tenant makes a list of the discovered issues after moving in it is essential to document and photograph all items found. The tenant may end up being responsible for the cost to correct deficient items when vacating.

The lease is good at detailing who is responsible for maintenance and repairs so be sure to review so you are not surprised. As a tenant, if the landlord is responsible for a repair, it is still your responsibility to inform the landlord promptly of the need to do so.

Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is an active commercial real estate broker. Reach him at 707-254-8000, or [email protected] Sign up for his email newsletter at

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!