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California bill that would lower renters' security deposits gaining steam

California bill seeks to cap how much renters' have to pay in security deposits
California bill seeks to cap how much renters' have to pay in security deposits 02:50

A California bill that would lower the amount a landlord can collect for security deposits is gaining steam as rising rents and deposits push tenants into tight financial situations.

Assembly Bill 12 would cap the security deposit for renters to one month's rent, instead of the two-to-three, currently allowed under state law.

"I think it will make it easier for someone who's struggling to find a place to rent and a way for them to get in," said Aldo Hernandez, whose family has been running a business for almost 30 years in San Rafael.

Not only would it impact workers, Hernandez believes shortened and cheaper commutes could lessen the pressure on increasing wages and keep the business more competitive. Many of his workers in the kitchen commute across the bridge from Richmond, where rent is cheaper. 

"If I can keep some of my expenses low, I can pass some along to my customers and not jack up the prices so much," said Hernandez.

Landlords and apartment associations oppose the bill, which has passed the first hurdle in the state assembly.

They argue capping the deposit will force them to take on too much risk if tenants fail to pay rent or damage units.

"It's very expensive for a property owner to provide that housing," said Embert Madison of the California Apartment Association.

More than 10 states have capped deposits to one month, from New York to Alabama.

"We believe the method in which this is doing it puts too much of the burden on the property owner," said Madison.

"If more than one month of damages are done, people are still liable for that so we believe this is the fairest way to do it and that's why other states are doing it. And California should catch up," said District 17 Assemblymember Matt Haney.

Haney believes his bill could put a dent in the homeless crisis. But its bigger impact could be full-time workers finding better housing by eliminating initial barriers.

"This is something important for working Californians who want to live closer to where they work or where their kids go to school," said Haney.

"The goal of our members is to provide housing — clean, affordable housing that's habitable for members of the society," said Madison. 

The California Apartment Association said it is working closely with Haney, who supports making amendments to exempt some of the smallest landlords across the state but not corporations.

"This has really hit a core for people not only in the legislature but across the state where people are experiencing not only high rents but high barriers to even get into housing to begin with," said Haney.

That's something workers at Puentes Taqueria would welcome with open arms and give them a boost after a long day in the kitchen.     

Haney believes there is enough support in the senate to pass before the Governor has to decide whether to sign into law or veto later this fall.   

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