ASK FINNEY: Security deposits, refinancing for renovations, and is living in a closet actually legal?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As a part of our Building a Better Bay Area week centered on housing issues in the Bay Area, Michael Finney is here to answer your #askfinney questions all about finding a place to live!

From Robert in San Rafael via email: I lived in an apartment for 10 years in Sausalito, and after moving out, my landlord is trying to charge me for things I think are unjustified. She wants to keep part of my deposit for things that should be considered "wear and tear." Can she do that?

Nope, she cannot.

California law is clear: a landlord may not charge for normal wear and tear, only for items that are broken or need cleaning. A landlord has 21 days to return your deposit in full. If your landlord wants to keep any of the money, they must give you an itemized list of every repair and cleaning along with receipts. If it is a minimal amount (under 125 dollars) they do not have to provide receipts. If you disagree, take your landlord to small claims court.



From Patricia via Twitter: Is it a good idea to refinance and pull money out to remodel?

It depends on the interest rate you are paying. If you have a lower rate now than you can get in refinancing, you should think twice about doing it. I would rather you look at a home equity line of credit. If you can get a lower interest rate, then it may be a great idea. You may be able to pull out the money needed for the remodel and still pay less each month. Current rates in the Bay Area for a jumbo refinance are between 4.5 and 5 percent.



Portisaa via Twitter responded to our "This woman lives in a closet in San Francisco's Alamo Square neighborhood" story: HOW IS THIS LEGAL? closets are NOT living space

By law, any space can be used as a bedroom if it meets certain standards. It must have at least 70 square feet of space, a window to the outdoors and a door leading out. There are also several safety standards for electrical and ventilation. Also California has a "two plus one" occupancy limit for housing. It generally allows two unrelated people per bedroom "plus" one more person in each unit.



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