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Renters Rally for Bill Protecting Security Deposits

September 27, 2002|JOCELYN Y. STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Earlier this month Gov. Gray Davis won praise for signing a bill that requires landlords to give tenants 60 days notice before terminating a lease, rather than 30 days.

Now renters are asking for a repeat, calling on Davis to sign legislation that would change how landlords handle security deposits.

At a rally Thursday outside a federal building in downtown Los Angeles, demonstrators presented letters to the governor's staff asking him to sign AB 2330, which tenants say will help prevent landlords from unfairly keeping security deposits.

"This bill is urgent," said James Williams, a member of the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). "A lot of renters are being ripped off."

The governor has not made a decision on the bill, said Byron C. Tucker, the governor's deputy press secretary.

"Gov. Davis is aware of the problems out there concerning renters," Tucker said. "He's taken actions on these issues in the past. This is one of the bills he'll be taking a close look at."

Tenants argue that landlords often keep security deposits rather than returning them.

Before moving out of a Pasadena apartment, Williams and his wife cleaned it, shampooed the carpet and painted the walls. They were hoping their $450 deposit would be returned.

"We were denied any part of our security deposit back," Williams said. "We had to take a loss. There was nothing we could do."

Under AB 2330, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), tenants could request an inspection before moving out. Tenants could then make repairs and clean the unit, so that money would not be deducted from the deposit. The bill also stiffens penalties for landlords who illegally withhold payments.

Apartment owners oppose the bill, including the 50,000-member California Apartment Assn. based in Sacramento. "Many owners have requested that the governor veto," said Debra Carlton, a spokeswoman for the association.

Owners oppose the bill because it allows inspections while the tenant's property is still in the unit, preventing owners from fully seeing the unit's condition. Any tenant may request a walk-through inspection, even those who may pose a danger to a landlord or manager, Carlton said.

But at least one landlord supports the governor signing the bill. The group demonstrating outside the federal building included 77-year-old Louise Davis, a resident of South Los Angeles.

"I'm a landlord, but my children's children might need this one day," she said. "I just think things should be fair. Landlords should have some feelings for others."

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