BRATTLEBORO — The town selectboard will soon consider whether to adopt a measure that would limit the cost of tenants’ security deposits, after narrowly voting to formalize and advance the draft ordinance last week.
The proposal, which was submitted in August by a local tenants union, would cap the up-front costs of a lease to the first month’s rent and a security deposit equal to the monthly rent — effectively prohibiting landlords from also requiring the last month’s rent.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, the selectboard voted 3–2 to consider the measure for adoption, beginning with a first reading next week. Board members Ian Goodnow, Daniel Quipp and Brandie Starr voted to advance the draft ordinance, while Chair Tim Wessel and Vice Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin opposed it.
The proposal they will consider is very similar to the one submitted on Aug. 18 by the Tenants Union of Brattleboro, whose members say it would make housing costs more affordable for low-income workers. However, the selectboard eliminated a provision that would have required landlords to return a tenant’s security deposit with accrued interest.
The board voted to advance the proposed security deposit regulation after receiving input from Brattleboro Attorney Bob Fisher and other town staff on its legality and possible efficacy, which board members requested at their Sept. 1 meeting.
“[Since] it was a proposal from the community … it wasn’t clear whether the selectboard would want to move forward with an ordinance,” Town Manager Peter Elwell said. “We thought it was important to have a discussion that was not a first reading.”
If it approves the draft ordinance at its Oct. 20 meeting, the board will consider whether to adopt the measure formally after a public hearing and second reading — both of which would be on Nov. 3, according to Elwell. He added that if adopted, the measure would go into effect in early January after a mandatory 60-day waiting period.