City Council Passes Controversial Bill To Create Security Deposit Alternatives
by Emily Sullivan
Published April 5 in WYPR
Excerpt: The Baltimore City Council passed a controversial housing bill Monday that supporters say bolsters renters’ rights and critics say empowers landlords rather than tenants.
The Security Deposit Alternatives bill, lead-sponsored by Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, would create alternatives to lump sum security deposits for some residential leases: a monthly payment plan and “rental security deposit insurance” — a surety bonds package which some renters’ advocates call a predatory practice.
Despite the name, most surety bonds do not provide renters with any protection from damage claims from landlords, said Marceline White, the executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.
“So you think, Oh, I’m buying insurance for myself, great. I’m protected in case anything goes wrong,’” she said. “But in fact, the tenant still owes money, even after they paid surety bonds, for any damages that would take place. So it’s really like they’re paying twice.”
Molly Amster of Jews United for Justice and Baltimore Renters United called the bill’s proposed installment plan option a positive step in making housing more affordable, but decried the bill’s other alternative.
“If renters are faced with the option of a traditional security deposit that they can’t afford or this ‘insurance’ product that they can afford, they are highly likely to choose the ‘insurance.’ ” she said. “The trouble is, it’s not insurance and could cost families dearly over time.”
Advocates Warn Bill That Provides Security Deposit Alternatives May Hurt Renters
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published April 2 in WYPR