Ever had a landlord just keep your deposit without any real good reason?

Yeah, everybody has. And there's not much you can do about it.

Today California Sen. Mark Leno announced that he's introducing legislation that would hit landlords with potentially higher penalties when a court finds they improperly withheld your cash:

And these days that can be a lot of cash.

Leno notes that, with first-and-last month's deposits reaching $5,000 and beyond, renters can be swindled out of a lot of money without much recourse.

Indeed, the group Tenants Together found that 60 percent of its members had experienced all or some of their deposits vanishing, allegedly without valid reasons.

According to Leno's office, the bill, SB 603, …

… requires landlords to place deposits in a separate account, pay interest on those deposits to a tenant and pay penalties if a court determines they improperly withheld a deposit.

According to our reading of the bill's language, it would lift the lid on current law, which says judges can award tenants an amount equal to double their security deposits in cases where the cash was unlawfully withheld.

Under Leno's rule there would be no upper limit on damages, so long as the an amount equal to the deposit was awarded as a minimum in successful cases.

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr


One the biggest complaints California's 15 million renters voice when a lease ends is that they have little recourse in dealing with a landlord who refuses to return their deposits. At a time when deposits can be $5,000 or more, the failure to pay interest or properly return a security deposit can be a significant and unnecessary financial burden on many renters. SB 603 protects tenants in this situation by encouraging landlords to return security deposits in a timely manner, as required by law.

Of course, we think landlords who rob tenants should be treated like thieves and sent to jail like the felonious, grand-theft scum bags they are. But this is a start.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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