If a landlord in California does not return the security deposit within 21 days from the move out date, the landlord may be liable for a penalty of 2 times the security deposit on top of the amount withheld. That means the landlord may be made to pay up to 3 times the security deposit.
To recover the security deposit, the tenant may sue the landlord in Small Claims Court, which proves to be easier, faster and cheaper than suing in regular courts.
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The information for this answer was found on our California Security Deposit Law answers.