California lawmakers brokered deals with landlords and Realtors to send Gov. Gavin Newsom bills to enhance protections for tenants — a victory for renters, in spite of some significant concessions.
The Legislature late Thursday approved Senate Bill 567 from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, which would strengthen protections for renters facing evictions for renovations or landlord move-ins. Durazo pitched the measure as a way to prevent homelessness for those at risk of losing their housing.
The California Apartment Association and real estate groups strongly opposed SB 567, which builds on a 2019 measure that created a framework of eviction protections for tenants. But Durazo and tenant advocates were able to work out a last-minute deal with the apartments’ group that shifted their stance to neutral.
Lawmakers earlier in the week approved Assembly Bill 12 from Assemblyman Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, which would cap security deposits at one month’s rent. Haney also amended his bill to allow smaller landlords to ask for up to two months’ rent.
California renters have traditionally had little power in the Capitol, where groups representing Realtors and landlords hold significant sway.
The California Legislature voted Thursday to bolster eviction protections for renters and close a loophole in an existing law that has allowed landlords to circumvent the state’s rent cap.
The eviction reform bill was among hundreds approved before the end of a late legislative session, including giving striking workers unemployment benefits and reforms to the state’s mental health system.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 14 to act on the bills by signing them into law, rejecting them with a veto or allowing the bills to become law without his signature.
The rental bill by Democratic state Sen. María Elena Durazo would update a 2019 landmark law creating rules around evictions and establishing a rent cap at 5% plus the inflation rate, with a 10% maximum.
The governor was the architect of the 2019 law on renter protections, but he has not indicated whether he will sign the new eviction legislation, the bill sponsors said.
Under the 2019 law, landlords can evict tenants for “at fault” or “no fault” reasons. “At fault” reasons include failure to pay rent on time. Under “no fault” rules, landlords can terminate leases merely by saying they need to move into units, make repairs or take the units off the rental market.
Renters’ advocates said some landlords have exploited the “no fault” evictions to get around the state’s rent cap. They pointed to a case in Santa Clara County in which a landlord evicted tenants, citing the need to move in their relatives, but then re-listed the units at nearly double the price.
Under Durazo’s new bill, landlords moving into their unit or renting to family also must identify the people moving in, the rental must be occupied within three months of eviction and they must live in the unit for at least a year. Those who evict tenants to renovate properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices.
A coalition of homeless advocates and civil rights attorneys released a list of demands for the City of San Francisco to settle a lawsuit that forbids police from forcing homeless residents off public property.
The letter sent to City Attorney David Chiu on Thursday offers a proposed settlement to resolve the lawsuit, Coalition on Homelessness v. City of San Francisco. A U.S. District Court judge found in favor of the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit last year, and the court issued an injunction against San Francisco.
“At its heart, San Francisco’s homelessness crisis is an affordable housing crisis,” said Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Instead of ensuring that Californians without housing have universal access to a safe, permanent, and affordable place to live, harassment tactics continue to displace and segregate unhoused people. The city’s homelessness problem will never be solved until there is an affordable place for people to live.”
More than 250,000 California renters, unable to make their rent during the height of the pandemic, applied to the state for assistance — only to have those applications denied or sit pending for months.
Now, for the first time, we know a little bit more about who those tenants are.
On Friday, the California Housing and Community Development Department published a demographic and geographic breakdown of the applicants who were denied federal emergency rental assistance distributed by the state, along with a summary of all the renters who are still waiting for help — and the reason why they’re still waiting.
Madeline Howard, staff attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty: “This is federal money that is being given out by the state, so I think it’s tremendously important that there be transparency about who is getting the funds and that it’s being distributed in a non-discriminatory way.”
Under the terms of the May 30 agreement, the agency agreed to flesh out its appeal process, better explain its denial decisions and start publishing monthly data summaries within 30 days.
123,306 applications were denied: No racial or ethnic group appears to have been disproportionately denied compared to the overall applicant pool.
143,391 applications are still pending: For 65%, the state is waiting on more information from the applicant. Another 28% are mid-appeal and only 1% of applicants have had their applications approved but haven’t yet received a check.
Jonathan Jager, an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said he isn’t surprised a majority of pending applicants didn’t complete their applications.
Jager: “It was so hard to interpret the denial notices or the various requests from HCD, so of course people would sit on these tasks.”
Last month’s settlement is meant to simplify the process, but for many renters it may be too late, as the last remaining pandemic-era eviction bans are coming to an end across the state
Nearly four years later, the state announced its first enforcement action against a landlord under the California rent control law.
Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that San Jose-based developer and property manager Green Valley Corporation will be on the hook for hiking the rent on 20 Silicon Valley tenants by an average of 151% — far in excess of the cap set by the law. The settlement also states that the company unlawfully evicted six tenants without providing a “just cause,” another violation.
“When the Legislature writes a law and the governor signs it, it’s the law, it’s not a suggestion, it’s not a recommendation, it’s not a ‘if you want to,’” said Bonta.
Tenants’ rights advocates and the California Department of Housing and Community Development reached a settlement this week to address processing delays and denials in rent relief applications for eligible tenants, meaning more renters could soon get financial aid.
During the pandemic, California tasked the department with administering more than $5 billion in state and federal funds to assist vulnerable tenants with rent relief through California’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The agency closed the application portal at the end of March 2022.
A surge in denials beginning after the closure propelled advocates to sue, alleging that eligible renters were rejected and left without financial aid. By July, around 30% of applicants had been denied assistance from the program, even though 93% were likely eligible for debt relief, according to the National Equity Atlas, an organization that reports on racial and economic equity.
Blake Phillips is pretty sure he did everything right, which makes it all the more baffling to the Los Angeles resident that he slowly went broke, lost his restaurant business and was eventually forced to move out of his home and in with friends.
He did all this while waiting for pandemic rental relief from the state of California, which, though promised and approved, has still not arrived.
“I went from being a small business owner, middle class, paying my bills, to being completely wiped out,” Phillips said. “I lost everything because of the rent program.”
The program in question was operated by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and it was designed specifically to protect both renters and landlords during the worst of the COVID-19 emergency. As businesses were forced to close, rendering many workers jobless and suddenly behind on their payments, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) was created early in 2021 to fill the financial gaps.
The Golden State’s expensive housing prices are stirring state lawmakers to action.
A bill establishing a fundamental right to housing for all Californians passed its first vote 6-2 in the state Assembly Housing Committee on June 7.
Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) introduced the legislation, ACA 10, on March 6, 2023, which would amend the California Constitution. “Access to adequate housing is one of the first steps to guarantee a person’s physical, emotional, and economic well-being,” said Haney in a statement. “Despite a patchwork of resources given to cities and counties across the state to provide affordable and accessible housing, California is still struggling to address its worsening housing crisis.
“Putting this commitment to housing in our constitution brings it up in comparison to other rights that we’ve said are non-negotiable for us and holds governments and elected officials accountable to do their job. This constitutional amendment simply says housing is the highest priority and value in our state.”
During the pandemic, California’s Housing Is Key program came under fire for being difficult to access, or even understand, especially for low-income tenants who didn’t own computers or speak English. The lawsuit sought to address those disparities, and get eligible tenants connected to the relief they were promised.
The state Assembly has approved legislation that would exempt 383 acres set aside by Chula Vista for a university and innovation district from the Surplus Land Act.
Assembly Bill 837, sponsored by Assemblymember David Alvarez, is now under review by the Senate Rules Committee.
The Surplus Land Act requires local governments to offer excess land for sale or lease to affordable housing developers first before allowing other uses. It exempts parcels that are impossible to build on or have legal restrictions.
Chula Vista sought an exemption for the site, located near its Otay Ranch Town Center, because it envisions the property having a university, market-rate housing and research and development companies. The city maintained that it acquired the land through agreements that limited the type of developments that could be built on-site.