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The Importance of Security Deposits for Landlords

Importance of Security DepositsA security deposit is one of the most important lines of defense for landlords. A security deposit not only protects the property, but a landlord’s finances should anything be damaged during their renter’s lease period. Typically, the deposit is the same amount as one month’s rent and is returned to the renter at the end of the stipulated lease period.

However, deductions can be made from the deposit. For example, if the renter is behind on monthly rental payments, this amount can be deducted from the security deposit. While landlords in San Diego cannot deduct for regular wear and tear, damage or excessive filth such as cigarette burns in the carpet, large marks or holes in the wall, grime coated bathrooms and toilets, and water damage care all valid reasons to deduct amounts from the deposit. Unfortunately, even landlords that have a valid reason for deductions can be pulled into court. As a result, it is crucial that landlords know what they need to do to avoid litigation and reduce their out of pocket costs.

Property Overview Prior to Move-In

Before any tenants move in, landlords can protect themselves by taking pictures of the property. This will help show the current state of the property upon move in and if something happens at a later date, can be used as reference to prove that the damage extended beyond everyday wear and tear. It is best to get a time stamp on the pictures developed to show that they were taken right before the tenant moved in.

Preliminary Inspection upon End of Lease

Two weeks before a tenant moves out, perform a preliminary inspection. Evaluate the carpet, window treatments and appliances for any damage. With the tenants present, you can write out potential damage and corresponding amounts. Both parties sign the agreement at the end of the inspection. As a landlord, you then have proof that the tenants are aware of potential deposit deductions unless the damages are repaired before move-out day.

Final Inspection once Lease has Ended

Typically performed after the tenants move out, the final inspection allows you to evaluate areas covered by furniture or wall decorations. Unless there is excessive damage, normal wear-and-tear cleaning is not part of the security deposit. Also, you must return the deposit within 21 days of the official move-out date. If you are renting a San Diego vacation home for a certain amount of days, the process will be slightly different, however a security deposit should still be imposed.


If you have valid deductions, write out a detailed account of each damaged area and include pictures if possible. Keep all your receipts for new materials and provide the former tenants with receipt copies. If they match their deduction amount with your materials list, they quickly see the validation of the charges rather than resorting to a court litigation process.

Have other questions about property management? Click here for a list of other Frequently Asked Questions or contact Harland Property Management directly at 858-367-0343. From apartment and residential properties to commercial buildings and vacation homes, we can answer any of your questions regarding property management in San Diego.