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Renters across Arizona could lose their apartment security deposits under a bill speeding towards approval in the state Legislature, housing advocates say.
Apartment dwellers would have 60 days to challenge a landlord withholding a security deposit under the proposed legislation. Currently, there is no specific time limit in state law.
The actual number of days a renter would be able to file a dispute could be even shorter because of the legislation’s wording. House Bill 2263 would start the clock as soon as a renter terminates a lease, which can happen weeks before a landlord evaluates an apartment’s condition.
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Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, told The Arizona Republic on Monday that he supports an amendment that will be offered in the Senate that would clarify the timing issue. It would start the clock when a landlord provides the tenant with an itemized list of the reasons for withholding a deposit after reviewing the apartment.
The short deadline to challenge is still a problem, housing advocate Ellen Katz, of the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, warned.
“This bill affects hundreds of thousands of people,” Katz told lawmakers during public hearings on the bill. “This bill just helps landlords, and it takes away rights from tenants to get their security deposit back. … It will make it fundamentally harder to get your security deposit back.”
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Apartment security deposits could soon be even harder to get back if an Arizona bill becomes law.
Toma said his legislation protects landlords from disputes years down the road. He originally wanted to give tenants 14 days to bring a challenge.
“(Renters) could take up to six years, and then call back the landlord and say, ‘The $1,000 you kept — I want it back,'” Toma said in a hearing. “And now it’s on the landlord to have to come up with documentation to essentially justify their withholding (the deposit) in the first place.”
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Toma said in hearings he knew of real-life examples but did not specify them.
The Arizona Housing Coalition, National Association of Social Workers and 10 other individuals and community organizations opposed the bill. One person registered support.
The bill passed the House last month 36-23 on a largely party-line vote, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. A full Senate vote is expected soon after a Senate committee also approved the bill along party lines.
To register your support or opposition to the bill, you can contact Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, at 602-926-3298 or on the Legislature’s website at https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1817.
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