Under California law, you are entitled to 1. the entire deposit amount or 2. your landlord must provide you with a written letter explaining all of the expenses that will be deducted from your deposit.

In general, a landlord may reduce the deposit for 3 reasons:
1. The cost of damages to the apartment. This does NOT include charge for improvements or for “reasonable wear and tear.” Moreover, the landlord may only charge you the cost of replacing the item you broke and may not use the opportunity to upgrade that fixture.
2. The cost of cleaning the unit to get the apartment back to the condition it was when you first moved in. It is common advice to take pictures of the apartment BEFORE you move in so the landlord would not be able to charge you later for this purpose.
3. Unpaid rent. This makes sense- a landlord can deduct any unpaid rent from your deposit.

Some other notes:
• In California, the landlord is required to refund your security deposit within 21 days of moving out.
• It is always good practice to take pictures of the entire apartment before you move in.
• It is always practical advice to clean out your apartment before you move out.
• Take more pictures of the apartment after you have cleaned it out and moving out.
• Make sure all of your rent is paid before you move out.
• Ask your landlord for a receipt.

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