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February 25, 2021

Obligo helps people rent apartments without paying security deposits

Oscar Hong

In the US, an estimated $46.5 billion is locked up in security deposits for rented housing. That money could be earning interest or helping people pay for college; instead, it’s stuck in escrow accounts.

Security deposits are also a burden for landlords and property managers, who spend countless hours dealing with them: depositing checks, managing escrow accounts, filing taxes, and returning deposits to forwarding addresses. To further complicate matters, the laws governing deposit management vary widely from state to state.

Obligo is a platform that solves both problems by eliminating the need for security deposits. The tenant pays a small monthly fee for Obligo’s services. Meanwhile, Obligo establishes a secure billing authorization between landlords and qualified tenants. If a tenant causes damages, the landlord is authorized to charge them up to a pre-agreed amount.
Obligo launched in New York in 2018. Since then, the company has established partnerships with leading property managers across the United States, including Aimco, StuyTown (Beam Living) and Common Living. All told, their partners manage more than 200,000 units.

To screen renters, Obligo requests two forms of payment, typically a credit card and a bank account. By analyzing these inputs, they can assess the renter’s financial situation and identify renters that are likely to default on their billing authorization. But it’s important that the process of connecting their financial information be swift and smooth for users, or they won’t finish it.

That’s why Obligo turned to Plaid.