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New bill aims to limit security deposits for renters

New bill aims to limit security deposits for renters
New bill aims to limit security deposits for renters 04:06

SACRAMENTO - Discussion about the high cost of an apartment in the Bay Area usually centers on the monthly rent. But for a lot of people, the biggest barrier is the amount of cash they must pay up front. 

Now, a bill making its way through the Legislature is meant to address that problem.

As a single mom, Jenya Cassidy found the process of getting an apartment so trying that she became a tenant's rights activist. In fact, the whole family became activists when her two daughters--Girl Scouts at the time--made news in 2019 by lobbying the Alameda City Council for rent control. Now, Jenya works out of her apartment, and she doesn't take it for granted.

"Even with a pretty decent job, the best job I've had in my life, I feel a lot--thinking about the future--if I had to move, how expensive that would be for me," she said.

Jenya said, with the high cost of living in the Bay Area, even people with good, stable employment have a difficult time building savings. By law, landlords can charge up to two times the rent as a security deposit, three times if it's furnished. Add the first month's rent, and that means a $2,500 per month apartment COULD require $10,000 in cash to move in.

"And not many residents have $10,000 sitting in the bank," said Assemblymember Matt Haney. So, he has introduced a bill--AB 12--that would limit security deposits to a maximum of one month's rent.

"We have to not only think about the cost of rent, but the cost to get into housing to begin with," said Haney. "So, this is a fair solution, a commonsense solution, I think."

But not everyone thinks it's fair. Sid Lakireddy is Vice President of the California Rental Housing Association and a landlord himself. He said he only charges the maximum deposit when a tenant has little or no credit history, such as an international student.

"And I ask for two months security deposit. And if they can't provide that, I have to really consider, am I taking a big risk here?" said Lakireddy.

He said, at a time when more housing is needed, the Legislature is making some small landlords reluctant to rent out their properties at all.

"This is sort of death by a thousand cuts." he said. "They've been passing bill after bill after bill to limit how we can screen potential residents who live at our property, and who we rent to and who we do business with."

Jenya just knows how it affects her family. She's happy in her apartment but knows it would be hard if she ever had to leave it. Even people who can afford monthly rent can be trapped where they live if they don't have thousands of dollars for a new security deposit.

"It does," she said "it absolutely privileges a certain group who CAN move, and a certain group is stuck. And we just have more and more people who are just really getting by, living paycheck to paycheck. That means you don't have that money."

AB 12 doesn't exactly have bipartisan support--it cleared the Assembly without a single Republican vote. It now needs approval by the Senate and the Governor's signature before it can become law.

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