Did I Pay For Last Month’s Rent Or Make A Deposit?

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I am in San Bernardino County, CA. I have been a tenant for 31 years in this particular unit. When I rented it in 1984, I paid my first and last months rent. Now that I am moving, I am being told by the owners that this is a deposit and not my last month’s rent. Can you tell me who is correct. I have an accounting reference referencing my last month rent.

The bad news is that, under California law, your landlord is correct. Any amount paid (other than rent) is treated as a deposit, and under most rental agreements (check yours) the tenant does not have the option to use a deposit for the last month’s rent.

The good news is that, if your unit does not require any repairs or cleaning (beyond reasonable wear & tear), you will get the deposit back. It’s a good idea to schedule an “initial inspection” with the landlord before you move out, so you will be aware of any items the landlord thinks will be a deduction against your deposit.