Cincinnati passes groundbreaking renter’s choice law to help those struggling with security deposits

In a groundbreaking move to help make housing more affordable, Cincinnati has passed a legislation that requires landlords to offer alternatives to traditional security deposits.

City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld introduced the bill after months-long collaborative efforts between tenant groups and property owners. There are three alternatives: an installment plan that allows the renter to pay the security deposit over the course of at least six months; a reduced security deposit no more than the equivalent of 50 % of the first month’s rent; or rental security insurance in which tenants pay an insurance company a nominal nonrefundable monthly fee in lieu of a deposit.

Hurtles like security deposits and application fees can make it hard for low-income families to rent a safe place to live, and could sometimes be used to exclude people from certain housing, according to Martha Galvez, a researcher in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

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