Southern California

Class Action Suit Settlement Renews Warning for Renters

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the management company was found guilty of taking tenants' money. That was not accurate.

Under a new class action settlement, several dozen apartment complexes across Southern California must repay hundreds of dollars in fees they kept from tenants when they moved out.

Up to $288 is up for grabs for renters from Burbank to Long Beach, tenants who lived in one of 31 apartment buildings dating back to 2008.

The money, according to the lawsuit settlement, involves fees landlords took from renters when they moved, for paint and carpet or vinyl replacement.

California law is specific with regard to what can be deducted from a tenant's security deposit. Normal wear and tear expenses cannot be deducted.

"As students, we didn't know how that worked, so we would just give whatever we had to," renter Diana Aguiler said.

While not part of the lawsuit, two out of three students and renters who spoke with NBC4 say they have been taken for their security deposits. Several of the complexes named in the lawsuit are near USC.

"There's not many resources on who to go to for that," Bryanna Tapia said. "Especially when you are no longer a tenant and you've moved out."

"It's important for renters to know both their obligations and their rights," said Elena Popp of the Eviction Defense Network.

Giving out this information is part of Popp's work at the Eviction Defense Network. She said 60 percent of LA County residents are renters.

"You should document anything that's already broken or wrong," Popp said, adding that renters should take photos close-up and wide of the property before moving in.

"I have a case right now where the tenant is being charged $6,000 to replace tiles, that they say were broken 15 years ago when they moved in," Popp said.

She said repainting and changing carpets after their life expectancy — what's called normal wear and tear — is the responsibility of the landlord, the crux of the lawsuit.

Defendants in the case have agreed to settle but are not admitting liability.

More advice for renters:

"You need to request that pre-move out inspection," Popp said. "You need to make sure you gave 30 days written notice that you were moving."

If no written notice is given, a landlord can take the deposit.

Some 10,000 notices have been mailed to people who moved out of the complexes in the lawsuit and could be victims

Link: About the Settlement

Questions: 1-877-433-4862

Link: Guide to Tenant/Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

Contact Us