Information about some types of small claims cases, including where you can get help, what laws apply to the situation, and how you can get ready for a small claims case.
A landlord has 21 days to return a tenant's security deposit
After a tenant moves out, a landlord has 21 days to either
Return all of the security deposit
Return the security deposit, minus any money they took out, with a list that shows how much money they took out (deductions) and why. The landlord must also attach any receipts for the work they had done.
If the repairs aren't finished within the 21 days for a good reason, the landlord can send the tenant a reasonable (good faith) estimate of the repair costs. Then, within 14 days after the repairs are done, the landlord must send their tenant the actual receipts.
A landlord can only take out money for certain things from security deposits
The landlord can deduct for:
Cleaning the rental unit when a tenant moves out, but only to make it as clean as when the tenant first moved in
Repairing damage, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant and the tenant's guests
Restoring or replacing furniture or other personal items, but only if this was included in the rental agreement and the damage isn't from normal wear and tear
A landlord can't use a security deposit to cover unpaid COVID-19 rental debt (rent or other money owed under a rental agreement, like parking fees, due from March 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021). If rent is due from another time, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover the unpaid rent.
If your landlord doesn't return your security deposit or you don't agree with what they deducted
When and what you can sue for depends if a contractor is licensed
In general, contractors that fix your home must have a license from the State of California. You can find out if a contractor is licensed in the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
You can only sue an unlicensed contractor if they did work for you
You can sue a licensed contractor for any money you paid them or work they did
If an unlicensed contractor sues you, you can use the fact that the contractor wasn't licensed as a full defense. And you can recover the full amount you paid to an unlicensed contractor.
How much you can sue an unlicensed contractor for
If an unlicensed contractor did work that requires a license and causes damage, you can file a claim for the damage the contractor caused and also ask for 3 times the amount of the damages.
If the damage the contractor caused forces you to tear all the work down and start over again, you may be able to sue for all the money you paid the contractor plus the cost of tearing out the bad work and starting over. And 3 times the amount of the damages, too.
If the total amount you can sue for is over $10,000, you have to decide whether to give up the rest of the money and just sue for $10,000 in small claims court or file your case in the civil division of the superior court, as either a limited civil case (for $25,000 or less) or an unlimited civil case (for over $25,000).
To find a contractor's bonding company's contact information enter the contractor's information on the CSLB website, then click on "Contractor's Bond History" to see their current bonding company. You can also contact the CSLB by telephone at 1-800-321-2752 for this information.
Before you file a complaint
Keep a copy of all receipts and any communications with the auto repair shop.
Contact the repair shop service manager:
Explain your problem
Tell the service manager what you think is a fair settlement
If you can't work it out, tell the service manager you're going to file a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). The BAR is a government agency that helps to keep repair shops from taking advantage of you.
File a complaint with the BAR
You can file a complaint with the BAR. Within 10 days of filing a complaint, the BAR will assign you a case number and a representative. The representative will
Review your complaint
Gather any evidence
Decide if the auto shop violated the Automotive Repair Law
Try to resolve the issue between you and the auto repair shop
Keep you up-to-date about your complaint's status
You can still sue in small claims court and use the evidence gathered to support your case. The BAR will not represent you in court.
File a wage claim or sue in small claims court
File a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner's Office
Workers in California have the right to file a wage claim when their employers don't pay them the wages or benefits they're owed. A wage claim starts the process to collect on those unpaid wages or benefits. California’s labor laws protect all workers, regardless of immigration status. Find out how to file a claim.
Start a small claims case
If you don't want to, or don't qualify to, file a claim with the Labor Commissioner's office, you can sue in small claims for unpaid wages (wage theft). If you win you may be awarded money that the employer must pay you as a penalty for not paying you your wages (statutory damages) under California Labor Code section 203. Check with the Small Claims Advisor for more information.
If someone writes you a bad check, you can sue for the original amount of the check, plus 3 times the amount of the check-up to an additional $1,500 (statutory damages).
How to sue for a bad check
Send a bad check demand letter to the person who wrote the check by certified mail with the return receipt requested. In your letter, demand to be paid the following amounts within 30 days by cash or money order: the amount of the check, the cost of certified mail, and the service fee charged by your bank (up to $25 and up to $35 for each subsequent bad check). Get a sample "Bad Check" demand letter.
Wait 30 days to see if the person who wrote the check pays you
File a small claims case - If the person who wrote the check doesn't pay you within 30 days (the full amount of the check plus the cost of certified mail and your bank fees), then you can start a small claims case. You can sue for the amount of the check, plus the statutory damages of 3 times the amount of the check, up to an additional $1,500. Read the law in Civil Code section 1719. If you want to sue for more than $10,000 (if you're a person or sole proprietor business) or $5,000 (if you're another type of business) you can either limit what you sue for to sue in small claims court or sue in civil court. Talk to the Small Claims Advisor if you need help deciding.
For your small claims trial
Take a copy of the demand letter you sent
Take proof from the post office that you sent the letter by certified mail and got back a return receipt
Take any other papers you need to prove your case. For example, bank statements, notes about your conversations, or any other letters to or from the person who wrote the bad check.
If someone stops payment on a check they wrote you without a reasonable (good faith) disagreement, you can sue for the amount of the check plus 3 times the amount of the check.
Wait 30 days to see if the person who stopped payment on the check pays you.
File a small claims case - If the person who stopped payment on the check doesn't pay you within 30 days (the full amount of the check, plus the cost of certified mail, plus your bank fees), then you can start a small claims case. You can sue for the amount of the check, plus the statutory damages of 3 times the amount of the check, up to an additional $1,500. Read the law in Civil Code section 1719.
For your small claims trial
Take a copy of the demand letter you sent and proof from the post office that you sent the letter by certified mail.
Take any notices from the bank about the stopped payment.
If you have it, take a copy of the stopped check.
Take copies of any bank statements or proof of charges you suffered because of the stopped check, and any letters to or from the person who stopped payment on the check.
Household movers are licensed and regulated by the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS).
If you have a dispute or if any of your items are damaged, try to solve the disagreement with the moving company first. If you need to file a complaint against a moving company, call BHGS at (916) 999-2041 or follow the link to file a complaint on their website.
Loss or damage claims must be filed in writing within nine months after your goods have been delivered.
You can also sue the mover in small claims court without doing this step first.
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