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On Tuesday May 7th, dozens of Tenants Together members took to the Capitol for a “Day of Action” to urge State Senators to support SB 603, a bill to promote security deposit reform. While tenants were walking the halls of the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary approved the bill by a vote of 4-1, a key step toward passage of the law. The “Day of Action” was a show of force by tenants in a capital often dominated by real estate industry lobbyists.
SB 603 is authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D - San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Tenants Together, the Western Center on Law & Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. The bill seeks to combat security deposit theft by requiring that landlords keep security deposits separate from their personal assets and by doubling the damages awarded to tenants against landlords who improperly withhold deposits. The bill will also require interest on security deposits to be paid to tenants, a practice common in many other states.
Members who participated in the Day of Action were victims of security deposit theft and allies. One member, Sebrina, flew in from San Diego to make sure Senators heard her story. Sebrina says, “My deposit was partially withheld for cleaning and unnamed “damages.” I left the place cleaner than it was when I moved in. As for damages, I have no idea what the landlord was talking about and they never explained or documented any repair expenses. The apartment sits now, almost 3 years later, as storage for odds and ends and paint, tools, unused carpet and so on. No one has ever lived there since I moved.”
At the Senate Judiciary Hearing Sen. Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) emphasized how many tenants across the state are suffering under the unfair treatment of tenant security deposits, and now is the time to act. Chair of the Committee, Noreen Evans (D – Santa Rosa), said that she herself had said that she herself had experienced unfair deposit withholding as a renter and felt this was an important bill to pass. Votes in favor were Sen. Evans, Sen. Bill Monning (D – Monterey), Sen. Ellen Corbett (D – East Bay), and Sen. Leno.
Supporters and advocates who could not make lobbying efforts participated in the “Day of Action” by writing letters and making calls to their senators. Tenants Together set up a page for renters to take action online. SB 603 now moves to the Senate floor where a vote is expected before the end of May.
To learn more about SB 603 – Security Deposit Fairness visit:
YourDeposit.org, Estudinero.org, or follow the campaign on Twitter @EndDepositTheft