Tenants Together has launched “It’s Your Money,” a new campaign to stop security deposit theft by California landlords. The campaign website, www.YourDeposit.org
, features know-your-rights information for tenants, tips on how to protect deposits, tenant stories and policy recommendations. The site allows tenants to share their security deposit horror stories.
Security deposit theft is one of the most common grievances among California’s 15 million renters. In a recent survey, over 60% of Tenants Together members reported improper withholding of deposit money. This is an astonishing figure, but not one that surprises anyone working with California tenants.
“Millions of dollars are being stolen from tenants every year,” commented Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights. “It’s gotten so bad that tenants paying their security deposits don’t ever expect to see that money again. Something has got to change.”
Unlike in many other states, California law does not require deposit money to be held in a separate account, does not require a landlord to pay interest on the deposit to tenants, and rarely imposes any penalty on landlords that improperly withhold deposits.
The “It’s Your Money” campaign seeks to change the dynamic and bring about basic fairness when it comes to security deposits. The campaign coalition is united around three basic principles:
1. Deposit money should not be comingled with other landlord assets
2. Tenants deserve interest on security deposits
3. Landlords who improperly withhold deposits must face meaningful penalties