The Security Deposit in Residential Rentals: Protection for Both Parties

Rental agreements, whether for furnished or unfurnished homes, often include clauses related to the security deposit. These sums are essential to guarantee the interests of both the tenant and the landlord. However, there are specific regulations as to how they should be handled and what these contracts can and cannot stipulate regarding such deposits.

The Purpose and Protection of the Deposit

The law is clear: the security deposit is an amount held by the landlord for the benefit of the tenant that is part of the rental agreement (CC 1950.5 (d)).

  • Without characterization of “Non-refundable”: It is crucial that no lease or rental agreement contain provisions characterizing any security deposit as “non-refundable” (CC 1950.5(m)).
  • Deposit Use: While the deposit is primarily held as a protection for the landlord, its use is restricted. The landlord may retain portions of the security deposit to compensate for repairs, cleaning, and in case of breach of contract by the tenant (CC 1950.5(b)).

Limits Established on Deposit Amount

The amount that a landlord can require as a deposit varies depending on whether the property is furnished or not:

  • Unfurnished properties: The landlord can request up to equivalent of two months rent as security deposit.
  • Furnished properties: In this case, the deposit can be equivalent up to three months for rent.

It is important to note that these amounts are established in addition to the first month's rent paid at the beginning of occupancy (CC 1950.5 (c)).


The security deposit acts as a protection tool for both parties in a rental agreement. To ensure fair and transparent transactions, it is essential that both tenants and landlords are informed and understand their rights and responsibilities regarding these deposits.

Legal and Tax Disclaimer

Please be advised that the content presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The articles and information provided here are written from the perspective of a real estate agent affiliated with Keller Williams, and do not represent legal or tax counsel.

As the author, I am a licensed real estate professional under Keller Williams, holding Brokerage DRE License Number: #02197031. However, it is important to note that my expertise is in the field of real estate, and not in legal or tax matters. The insights and opinions shared on this blog are based on my experiences and knowledge in the real estate industry and should be treated as general guidance rather than definitive legal or tax advice.

For specific legal or tax concerns relating to any real estate transactions or investments, readers are strongly encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or tax advisor who can provide tailored advice based on your individual circumstances and the latest legal and regulatory requirements.

The information on this blog is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, and I, along with Keller Williams and its affiliates, disclaim all liability for any loss, damage, or misunderstanding arising from reliance on the information contained herein.

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