CINCINNATI — Jeneya Lawrence said finding a place to rent last year seemed impossible because she couldn’t afford the high security deposits.
Lawrence said some landlords wanted up to $1,200 for a deposit, and it was difficult for her to try to negotiate another option as a low-income resident.
“It’s stressful financially, emotionally, physically, all around the board, because I feel like everyone deserves equal opportunity,” Lawrence said.
A new Cincinnati law, which goes into effect Tuesday, gives renters within the city three new options for paying a security deposit if they cannot afford it all at once.
The first, rental insurance, would require them to pay a small extra fee each month instead of fronting the cash before they move in.
The second is an installment plan: Renters can pay their security deposit over the course of their first six months of tenancy.
The third is by paying a reduced security deposit, which can be no more than the equivalent of 50% of the tenant’s monthly rent. (Often, security deposits are double the monthly rent or more.)
The new legislation comes as many are struggling to pay rent at all, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused businesses to close doors and furlough or lay off employees.
Dani Isaacsohn is the founder of Cohear, a community engagement company that helps drive local policy. While he supports “renters choice,” Isaacsohn said today’s climate in the wake of the pandemic has amplified the underlying issue of affordable housing.
Isaacsohn said the policy is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
“We need this type of legislation on steroids moving forward,” Isaacsohn said. “This is just a small and good win, but there is going to be so much more need for eviction prevention, eviction protection.”
Cincinnati City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld said he understands the legislation is just one tool to help renters.
“But, this can be a really valuable tool because in addition to the health concerns so many people have, the anxiety they’re facing is economic, financial anxiety and this puts really dollars back in their pockets immediately,” Sittenfeld said.
Landlords who own 25 units or fewer are exempt from the legislation.