Skip to main content

New state bill would limit security deposits for renters

Matt Haney poses in his campaign office on Market Street during his campaign kick-off party on Nov. 10, 2021. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Whenever a renter has to move, they always have to do the grim math: Bank up for whatever move-in costs a landlord demands for a desired home, which can easily run into the tens of thousands in a market like San Francisco. 

San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney plans to make the process a little less stressful in an era of high rents. 

“In San Francisco, an average apartment is $4,000, which means a person may need up to $12,000 just to move into an average apartment under current law. That’s egregious; it’s literally a down payment on a house in many places,” said Haney. “AB 12 will follow what states like New York and Delaware have done for years and cap a security deposit at one month of rent.”

Assembly Bill 12, a new bill introduced by Haney on Dec. 5, would prohibit landlords from demanding security deposits greater in value than one month’s rent, regardless of the type of property. 

The security deposit would still be in addition to whatever initial rent is paid. Under current state law, a landlord could ask for a deposit equal to two month’s rent—or even three months in the case of furnished accommodations. 

The deposit is meant to be refundable within 21 days of when your tenancy ends, barring legitimate deductions for cleaning and repairs. In San Francisco, landlords must pay back interest earned on the deposit as well. 

Proponents of the legislation say that it’s necessary in a rental market like San Francisco, where move-in costs can easily soar into five figures. 

While the bill earned immediately cheers from renters who face high move-in costs, a state association representing apartment owners was less enthused.

“This legislation comes on the heels of a pandemic that left countless rental housing providers forced to provide housing without compensation. For property owners, the security deposit helps to cover unpaid rent and damages to the unit,” said Deb Carlton of the California Apartment Association in a statement.

“Today, when tenants don’t fulfill their obligations, even the current caps on security deposits don’t cover the owner’s costs,” Carlton said.

The bill may be heard in committee as early as Jan. 5.