Why landlords can ask for a deposit

Few issues give tenants heartburn like a new landlord asking for a large deposit check. What is a deposit and why do landlords get to ask for so much?

A deposit is defined under the law as any payment, fee, deposit or charge that is imposed at the beginning of the tenancy to be used for any purpose. For example, your deposit can be used for rent in the event you leave without paying. It can also be used cleaning the apartment to return it to the same level of cleanliness that it was in at the beginning of your tenancy.

Landlords are restricted by law on the amount of money they can ask for as a deposit. A landlord can collect the first month’s rent, and a maximum two months rent for an unfurnished apartment. Moreover, a landlord can obtain one-half of a month’s rent and reasonable fee for administration costs if you have a waterbed. Disabled tenants have the right to keep guide and service dogs without paying an extra charge or deposit for the dog. However, that person is liable if the dog causes any damage to the unit.

State law does not mandate that landlords pay any interest on deposits. However, under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, landlords are required to pay interest annually on deposits.

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