Hi, la2sf2002 -
This is an interesting situation. After much searching, I think I've
come up with your answer - although I'm afraid it's probably not the
answer you wanted.
According to http://www.studentlegal.ucla.edu/RMMATE01.html :
"The landlord is not required to return the security deposit for the
apartment until all tenants vacate, unless there is a provision to the
contrary in the rental agreement."
The page goes on to say that a common solution is to have the new
tenant (i.e. your roommate's friend) pay the departing tenant (you)
their share of the deposit upon moving in.
In addition, you should request that your landlord give you a waiver
of liability when you move out. If your portion of the lease is not
assigned to the new tenant, you could be held legally responsible if
your roommate were to damage the apartment or not pay rent. This is
called a "novation", and the definition can be found at:
Also keep in mind that security deposits should have interest paid on
them at the rate of 5% annually. This information can be found at:
Technically, California state law allows a landlord to keep your
security deposit against unpaid rent. Therefore, he is within his
rights by keeping it since you are breaking your lease.
However, most landlords don't take such a hard-nosed approach (and it
sounds like your landlord is reasonable about it). If you were to
press the issue, it could cause you more problems than it's worth -
like your landlord demanding that you pay rent for the duration of
your lease, until he's able to re-let the apartment.
There's some more helpful general information regarding renting
property in California at:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html (the main page for searching
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, and I hope that your move
will be a fresh start. If you have any questions regarding this
answer, please ask for clarification.
Search strategy used:
"master tenant" definition
"security deposit" assign lease california
california "civil code"
california renter law
california "master tenant" deposit
california "master tenant" assignment lease deposit
california rental law deposit "transfer lease"