Berkeley is a college town, and that means May and June bring free furniture to the streets as the student population moves into new digs. On Wednesday April 16, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board will offer a special workshop on Security Deposit law at their office on Milvia at Center Street, downtown.

Landlord/Tenant – Rights/Responsibilities on Security Deposit Law Seminar
Wednesday, April 16th, 5:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. @ the Rent Stabilization Board Office

Most rules about deposits are state law, so they apply to all renters, even those who are not under the rent control portion of Berkeley’s tenant protection ordinance.

Another good resource for planning to move in or move out is provided by the University of California campus group Renters Legal Assistance:
Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Tenants Together, the statewide renters organization (BTU is a member group) also offers some good information here:

This just in – SB603, the great bill to protect security deposits that we’ve been telling you about, has failed in the state Senate. Tell your San Francisco pals that their Senator voted against protections for tenants. SF voters and friends of tenants everywhere should give Leland Yee a call and let him know we will remember his vote: 916-651-4008.

An Everest Properties Building.
An Everest Properties Building.

Also in the news, Berkeley Property Owners Association President Sid Lakireddy, whose family is one of Berkeley’s largest landlords, has filed a lawsuit against the four candidates for Rent Board chosen at the Tenant Convention in 2012. Lakireddy, who was a key leader in raising over $40,000 from landlords and property managers to try to defeat the Progressive Affordable Housing Slate, claims he isn’t a public figure. Igor Tregub is fundraising to defend the Slate’s first amendment rights.
The lawsuit references the well known 1999 case against Sid Lakireddy’s uncle, who was convicted of transporting minors for illegal sexual activity and other offenses. In case you are new to Berkeley, you can learn about it on these sites:

Also this week, the Daily Cal reported that Berkeley’s City Council will continue debate on a law prohibiting smoking inside and outside of apartments and condos (BTU has not taken a position):

Handful of MoneyWe’ve got some good news about SB603 – the great new law about Security Deposits that we keep telling you about. Thanks to unified support from tenants all over the state, the bill has moved out of committee and into the state Senate.

However, we really need to KEEP UP THE PRESSURE. The California Apartment Association has its members writing letters every day. They say, “With the change to the penalty provisions of the law, more tenants would surely challenge their deposit return. Any degree of victory would mean getting all of a security deposit back, plus penalties and actual damages.” Indeed!


SF Chronicle article:

What the opponents are saying:

Justice?Berkeley’s Rent Board will discuss support for the state bill SB603 which would provide further protections for tenants and their security deposits. All-too-often, landlords don’t return security deposits or follow state laws, such as the rule that they have to let tenants know they can request a pre-move inspection, or the law that landlords must send copies of receipts. SB603 would allow a chance for tenants who have to take owners to small claims court to get damages. And if landlords risk having to pay the tenant MORE than just their deposit, maybe landlords won’t try to keep it for no good reason.

Tell the Rent Board what you think on Monday, or write them here:
If you write the Rent Board, please say you support BTU and make sure you title your email “For the Commissioners re: May 13 Meeting” so it gets to them.

Tenants Together, the statewide group leading the charge on this issue, just published a report about security deposit theft.

The report contains the following findings from a survey of Tenants Together members from across the state:

  • 60% experienced unfair withholding of some or all of their deposit;
  • 53% did not receive any of their deposit funds within 21 days of vacating the last time they moved;
  • 36% reported that their entire deposit was never returned the last time they moved.

The report also analyses of the outcomes of security deposit cases filed by tenants in small claims courts to recover their deposits. The three-courthouse study, the first of its kind in California, found:

  • Tenants prevailed in over 70% of the cases that went to judgment;
  • In only 3.5% of the security deposit cases filed by tenants was a landlord assessed a penalty by the court.

read more here:

state bill:

Garbage & Fence

BTU is a member of Tenants Together, California’s statewide tenant organization. Our friends there have provided an easy way for you to support SB603 – the great new law about Security Deposits that we keep telling you about. If passed, this law would give California tenants some rights that Berkeley tenants already enjoy – like interest on their security deposits. In addition, Senator Leno’s bill calls for landlords to pay penalties if they improperly withhold a security deposit. SUCH PENALTIES ARE IMPORTANT because many landlords withhold security deposits as a matter of course, because they count on tenants being unwilling or unable to take them to small claims court.

Just last week at the Farmers Market, BTU met a tenant whose landlord was taking improvements like new carpet and cabinets out of a deposit – this a is a real problem in Berkeley and you can help RIGHT NOW by following the link below to send a letter to our state Senator. You can also call her at (510) 286-1333

Check is in the mail...not!

Here at the Berkeley Tenants Union, we know that having good laws doesn’t always mean it will be easy to get your deposit back, or get the interest your Berkeley landlord is supposed to pay you every year. That’s why we want you to sign Tenants Together’s online pledge and join with BTU in supporting SB 603 — a California bill that will strengthen tenants rights related to getting your deposit back.

Pledge here:

If you are moving soon, you may also want to know that the Berkeley Rent Board will host a workshop for landlords and tenants on Security Deposits on Wednesday April 17th.

Workshop Info: