New California Law Reduces Security Deposits

Much of the consideration for renting over buying comes from the lower initial cost. However, with quickly rising rents and increasing access to financial assistance especially for first-time homebuyers, that gap is closing somewhat. AB 12, which went into effect at the beginning of July, seeks to lessen the upfront cost burden on renters.

Under AB 12, no landlord can charge a security deposit greater than two months’ rent, and in some cases, it’s limited to one month’s rent. The one month limit applies to landlords who own either more than two rental properties or more than four units, as well as when the tenant is a military service member. In all other cases, the limit is two months. Unlike prior law, whether the unit is furnished or not is not taken into account.

What remains to be seen is how easily this law can be enforced, particularly whether landlords adhere to the one month or two month limit. Previously, the difference was whether the unit was furnished or not, something that could be easily confirmed or denied. However, landlords are under no obligation to reveal to tenants how many properties or units they own in total. Moreover, since a landlord can refer to either a person or a limited liability corporation, it’s possible to put properties managed by the same landlord under different names. There may be protections in place for tenants who discover a landlord attempting to sneak by this rule, but they may have a hard time proving it.


Photo by Hebert Marchesi on Unsplash

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