Security Deposit: It’s Your Money!

You move out of your apartment after you give 30 days notice. However, you never receive your deposit. What can you do about it? Currently, not much. State Senator Mark Leno authored a bill sponsored by, among other groups, San Francisco’s Tenants Together, to put real teeth into a bill designed to make landlords think before unfairly withholding deposits.

Under Senator Leno’s bill, after you move out and your landlord unfairly keeps your deposit, he could be on the hook for large damages. The bill would require “a court to award up to twice the amount of the security, in addition to actual damages, for the bad faith claim or retention by a landlord.” The bill also mandates an award of actual damages for the landlord’s bad faith retention of your deposit.

In addition, the bill would make landlords pay interest on your deposit. Currently, San Francisco authorizes interest on deposits, however, this is not state law. The bill, if signed in to law, would require that landlords keep deposits in a bank or financial institution insured by the federal government. In addition, the landlord would not be able to mix deposits with his personal funds. Instead, the landlord would have to keep them separate.

The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing on May7. Call Senator Leno’s office at (415) 557-1300 to express your support.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Tenant Attorney
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San Francisco, CA 94109

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