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Why a startup is taking on the inequity of security deposits

Tech companies have traditionally had an adversarial relationship with cities and city government (see AirbnbUberBird). But a new real estate-minded startup that aims to lower the financial barriers for renting an apartment not only wants to work with government, but help legislators pass laws it says will benefit low-income citizens.

Rhino, a New York-based startup co-founded in 2017 by Ankur Jain, a former vice president at Tinder, aims to eliminate the standard apartment security deposit by means of a nonrefundable monthly fee; renters pay a small amount to insure their unit and pays for any damages, roughly $13 a month for a $3,000-a-month apartment.

While the company has inked deals with some major Manhattan landlords, it’s run into a significant barrier to growth: In many cities, it’s not mandatory for landlords to accept this security deposit alternative.

To solve the problem, the startup has recently found success as an advocate in city halls across the country. After releasing a public policy proposal for a renter’s choice law that would allow Rhino and services like them to operate, many cities are considering the option.

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