Rental housing providers need solutions and AB 12 (Haney) simply stated is NOT A SOLUTION.
As a rental housing provider, or landlord as we’re referred to by most, in California it is commonplace to feel like the deck is stacked against you. California’s elected leaders continue to propose legislation that’s harmful to small mom and pop rental housing providers, like Assembly Bill 12 (Haney). As property owners, we play a vital role in our communities — we keep families housed in safe, well-maintained homes. In a state facing a worsening housing crisis each year, I do not take this role lightly and wish the California Legislature would see the valuable role we play in our communities — providing housing.
This proposed legislation making its way through Sacramento places limits on the amount of security deposits rental property owners could accept. Assembly Bill 12 would restrict the amount of security deposits to only one month’s rent. That limitation does not take into consideration the applicant’s financial history, eviction history or whether the current rental unit is furnished or unfurnished.
Under current law, a maximum-security deposit of two months for unfurnished units and three months for furnished units is permitted. The apparent goal of Assembly Bill12 may be to allow potential tenants more access to housing, but Assembly Bill 12 will have the exact opposite effect and will limit opportunities for individuals and families seeking housing.
A few years ago, I rented an apartment I own near Santa Monica College and collected one month’s rent for the security deposit. The renters put a small refrigerator in the living room that leaked. That water damage ruined the carpet and padding in the living room and one of the bedrooms. The carpet needed to be replaced and the hardwood floors below the carpeting refinished. That’s just half of the damage — the refrigerator in the kitchen had to be changed. The total repairs to get the apartment market ready to re-rent totaled $5,000. The rent at that time was $1,700 for a two bedroom so the damage was nearly three times the security deposit.
Damage like that shouldn’t be considered the cost of doing business. Now, when renting to new renters I collect a month and half to two months’ rent security deposit. I do that to protect my property. I am a Vietnam Veteran and semi-retired and the income earned from rental properties supplements my social security benefits. I can’t be out more than 50 percent, or worse, of the collected security deposit.
I understand the tough place renters can be in. After discharge from the Army, I attended law school on the GI Bill. My first job was as a legal aid attorney in San Pedro where I represented numerous renters. The unfortunate reality is if Assembly Bill 12 passes it will only discourage owners from taking risks on renter applicants that do not quite meet established financial criteria.
During the eviction moratorium we carried the financial burden of the pandemic. We shouldn’t be expected to continue carrying the financial responsibility of the rental market.
AB 12 is simply not a solution. I know owners who allow applicants to spread their security deposits over a couple of months. There are supplemental programs to help Californians get and stay housed, like Section 8. We need similar programs to help Californians with security deposits. One potential solution may be some kind of renter security deposit loan program, because at the end of the day renters who don’t destroy property get their deposits back.
California’s legislators need to recognize the consequences that Assembly Bill 12 will have on their communities and vote no on AB 12.
Mathew Millen is a Santa Monica resident who lives in one of the units of his Santa Monica apartment building.
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