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Mainstay in lease disputes: improperly withheld security deposits

Well, the facts seem fairly clear on this, to wit: If you want a comparatively higher chance as an Orange County apartment lessee of getting your full security deposit back at the end of your lease term, you might consider renting from the county's largest landlord, Irvine Co.

If, conversely, you somehow perversely enjoy end-of-lease dogfights, opt for a unit leased out by Arnel Management Co.

The latter company is under fire for allegedly withholding without cause security deposits from departing tenants (partially or in whole, and sometimes with an extra cleaning/maintenance bill tacked on), and many of those individuals and families are taking umbrage with that.

In court. Tenants have filed security deposit-related complaints against Arnel Management 38 times over the past few years for its withholding of money they contend was unjustified. Although Arnel principals dispute those contentions, the company has won only two of those suits.

A recent media report on the management company and its legal embroilments notes the concern of tenant advocates that the cases "may hint at a larger problem."

And that is this: Many tenants who are unlawfully fleeced nonetheless fail to take legal action because they "don't have the resources or take the time to file a case."

Multiple former employees at Arnel have stated that tenants were often ripped off on their deposits. One of them estimates that complaining renters suffered improper deductions in about one-third of all cases.

Problems can easily enough arise -- and often do -- with security deposits, especially regarding varying interpretations as to what constitutes adequate cleaning on departure and so-called "ordinary wear and tear."

In no case, though, is it acceptable for a landlord to use security deposits as a money-making device pursuant to a purposeful business policy that routinely shorts tenants when they vacate a unit.

A renter with questions or concerns regarding a security deposit or any other lease-related matter can receive prompt advice and aggressive legal representation from a proven lease-dispute attorney.

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