Tag Archives: security deposit

California Tenants to Have Lobby Day in Sacramento

(Bumped to remind folks about SB 603   – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

California is a deep-blue state, with two-thirds Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature.  And when landlords tried to repeal rent control at the ballot five years ago, they suffered a massive defeat.  But that doesn’t mean the legislature is pro-tenant.  Every day, real estate lobbyists in Sacramento have their ear – as they spread misinformation & scare tactics about common sense, pro-tenant legislation.

Which is why a Lobby Day on Tuesday, May 7th by Tenants Together to pass SB 603 (security deposit reform) is so unusual.  For the first time in over a decade, dozens of tenants from throughout California will swarm the State Capitol – meeting with legislators about the security deposit crisis, and demanding change.  And the Senate Judiciary Committee will be voting on SB 603 that same afternoon.

Every year, California landlords hold billions of dollars of security deposit money.  For many tenants, it is their largest asset – and yet most never expect to see it back, assuming that it’s merely a “cost” of renting a new apartment.

A Tenants Together survey found that nearly 60% of its members reported having their security deposit unfairly withheld.  Most tenants did not bother to proceed with suing their landlord in small claims court.  And while a new report of three courthouses found that tenants prevail in 70% of such cases, a miniscule number of landlords – only 3.5% of cases – were hit with penalties.

In other words, landlords have impunity to steal your security deposit – knowing that tenants are not likely to sue, and if they do they would simply be required to pay it back (with no penalties) a few months later.

Senate Bill 603 by State Senator Mark Leno would do three things: (a) require landlords to keep tenant deposits in separate accounts, not comingled with their assets, (b) impose automatic penalties against landlords who fail to return deposits and (c) require that landlords pay tenants interest on security deposits, as is the law in many local jurisdictions and a statewide requirement in many other states.

SB 603 is a very modest proposal to better secure money that tenants are required to give to their landlords – but we expect a vigorous fight from the landlord and real estate lobby, who are used to always getting their way in Sacramento.  Tomorrow’s Lobby Day will feature the human side of the issue – with tenants from across the state who will meet with State Senators and their staff, highlighting this issue.

Stay tuned on Wednesday, as we report back on the outcome of Lobby Day.  In the meantime, you can call or write to your State Senator and urge them to vote “yes” on SB 603 by going to this link: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/52…  

“It’s Your Money” – Campaign Launches to Protect California Tenants from Security Deposit Theft

Hey folks!!  Glad to report that I’m currently volunteering at Tenants Together, California’s only statewide renters’ rights organization.  We have kicked off this campaign today to help tenants recover their security deposits.  Check out our new website, and stay tuned for possible legislative changes. –Paul

by Paul Hogarth

Earlier today, Tenants Together announced the launch of “It’s Your Money,” a new campaign to stop security deposit theft by California landlords. The campaign website, www.YourDeposit.org, features know-your-rights information for tenants, tips on how to protect deposits, tenant stories and policy recommendations. The site allows tenants to share their security deposit horror stories.

Security deposit theft is one of the most common grievances among California’s 15 million renters. In a recent survey, over 60% of Tenants Together members reported improper withholding of deposit money. This is an astonishing figure, but not one that surprises anyone working with California tenants.

“Millions of dollars are being stolen from tenants every year,” commented Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights. “It’s gotten so bad that tenants paying their security deposits don’t ever expect to see that money again. Something has got to change.”

Unlike in many other states, California law does not require deposit money to be held in a separate account, does not require a landlord to pay interest on the deposit to tenants, and rarely imposes any penalty on landlords that improperly withhold deposits.

The “It’s Your Money” campaign seeks to change the dynamic and bring about basic fairness when it comes to security deposits. The campaign coalition is united around three basic principles:

1. Deposit money should not be comingled with other landlord assets

2. Tenants deserve interest on security deposits

3. Landlords who improperly withhold deposits must face meaningful penalties

For more information about the campaign, visit www.YourDeposit.org.