In California may I legally deduct unpaid utility bills from a security deposit?
The situation listed below is also given in “Did I just cost myself $1,000?”, but the question is different
I live in a 2-bedroom condo that my mother owns. My housemate pays her rent check to me, and I pay the full rent to my mother. I am responsible for arranging any repairs, but my mother reimburses me. I have no written contract with my mother, and my housemate has no written contract with me.
My housemate and I had an oral month-to-month rental agreement. She paid rent check to me, and I paid the full rent to my mother. When she moved in she made a check out to me for the agreed upon $200 deposit. We also agreed she would pay $400/month rent plus 50% of the household utility bills.
All utilities are in my name. I pay all of the bills and she reimburses me for her half. She had a tough year financially and I neglected to give her the amount of her half of the bills… for over a year. She never asked how much money she owed for utilities.
I recently gave her a copy of all of the bills and how much of each she needs to pay me ($625). When asked what her payment plan was, she said she would pay me when she had more money this fall. I said “okay”. In an e-mail I received from her since then, she stated “At this time I do not have the money for the utilities and since you agreed to let me pay them as I can that is what I will do. It is your own fault since you did not hand me the bills in a timely fashion which was your responsibility.” Since I told her she could pay me when she has more money this fall, I am worried that she will (1) not pay me and (2) I wont legally be able to take her to small claims courts until fall has ended and the “agreed upon” time is up.
She has since moved out, and is yet to pay any portion of these utilities. There is only about $25 of work to fix up her room that I will deduct from her deposit (I checked, and these deductions follow the law).
In the state of California can I deduct the amount she owes me toward utility bills from her security deposit?
I have found websites that suggest I can, but I can’t find an actual law that backs them up. I want to make sure it is legal for me to do this before I use the remainder of her deposit to reimburse myself for $175 of her portion of the utilities.