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Nonwhite Renters Saddled With Higher Security Deposits, Study Says

Renters of color pay security deposits more often than white renters, and deposits they pay are typically $150 more than those paid by white renters, according to an analysis by Zillow.

Renters of color in the United States are often saddled with higher renting costs when compared to white renters, according to a new analysis.

The analysis, from the online listings portal Zillow, found that renters of color pay security deposits more often than white renters, and that the deposits they pay are typically $150 more expensive than those paid by white renters. The report also found that nonwhite renters typically apply to more apartments than white renters — therefore paying more in application fees.

With rent prices shooting up a record 17 percent over the past year and the national vacancy rate the lowest its been since 1984, rental application costs are yet another barrier to housing stability faced by renters, many of whom are forced to move because of increasing rents only to be burdened by more costs in looking for a new apartment.

“Rents grew more last year than any year on record, forcing many renters to look for a more affordable option. About 2 in 5 renters who moved in the past year said a rent hike influenced their decision to move,” said Manny Garcia, population scientist at Zillow. “Renters typically do not have much of a financial cushion, and the cost of finding a new place to live can be an expensive burden. Regrettably, renters of color are especially likely to experience rising rents, and when they shop for a new rental, generally report higher upfront costs, restricting the mobility that is often held up as a benefit of renting.”

Zillow found that 61 percent of all renters applied for two or more properties in 2021, an 11 point increase from 2019 and a five-point increase from 2020, likely owing to the highly competitive rental market. The typical white or Asian renter submited two applications, with the typical Black or Latinx renter makes three submissions. Thirty-eight percent of Black and Latinx renters submitted applications to more than five apartments in their search, the analysis found, while 33 percent of Asian renters made more than five submissions along with 21 percent of white renters.

With the median application fee at around $50, these costs can add up for cash-strapped renters, with Zillow’s research finding the typical renter holding $3,400 across checking, savings, and investment accounts, and with one-third of surveyed renters saying they were unable to cover an unexpected expense of $1,000. Renters of color are bearing the brunt of this scenario, according to Zillow, with Black renters paying typically paying a $65 application fee, Latinx renters paying $80, Asian renters typically paying $100, while white renters typically pay $50.

According to Zillow, part of this price gap is due to demographics and location. The typical white renter is two years older than the typical renter of color, allowing for two more years of income growth. Additionally, white renters are more represented in rural markets in the midwest, which are less expensive than the urban rental markets where renters of color are better represented.

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