Security deposit alternative bill clears first House panel

Affordable Housing
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 13-4 to advance the bill.

A bill that would create consumer protections for tenants who choose to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit has cleared its first House committee.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Mooney, the proposal (HB 133) would grant landlords the option to charge a nonrefundable monthly fee in lieu of a security deposit. The bill would also require all terms of the security deposit alternative to be disclaimed upfront.

Mooney’s bill would also require landlords to permit tenants to end the monthly fee agreement at any point in the lease and pay the security deposit instead.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 13-4 to advance the bill. It now heads to the House Judiciary Committee, which is its final stop before it is ready for a vote on the chamber floor.

Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie is carrying the companion bill (SB 494). It is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Security deposit alternatives allow renters to avoid paying a security deposit, which is often equivalent to a month’s rent. The proposal’s supporters say it lowers the financial burden for tenants who could afford rent but do not have enough money saved to cover first and last month’s rent plus a deposit.

Affordable housing advocates have criticized fee alternatives as anti-consumer, noting that unlike security deposits they are nonrefundable and would not be used to offset property damage.

Security deposit alternatives have become more popular as rents continue to rise in Florida and the nation. Companies such as AssurantLeaseLockRhinoObligo and Jetty all offer security deposit alternatives that range in price and terms, but typically cost a fraction of a security deposit.

Some work only with landlords; others work directly with tenants and also with landlords. Some companies screen tenants individually; others rely on landlord screening. Some companies charge a monthly fee; others charge a single upfront fee.

A LeaseLock representative told Florida Politics last year that the average rent of the properties it covers is $1,500 a month. The monthly fee for a property at that price point is $25 — or $300 over the course of a 12-month lease.

Staff Reports


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