City Council Introduces Permanent Rent Control and Tenant Protections Ordinances; Prop B Must Fail for Laws to Take Effect

After a post-midnight adjournment in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the City Council meeting on Monday, September 21, 2020, the City Council has settled every detail of a possible permanent Rent Control Ordinance and a permanent Tenant Protections Ordinance.

After more than a year of work by the council and a vast amount of community activism in both pro and anti rent control camps, the ordinance hammered out on Monday will come back for a final reading and a vote on September 29 at the next council meeting.

While the laws put forth from the council aim to be the 21st Century standard for rent control in Culver City, it still depends on how the electorate votes on Proposition B. If Prop B passes, there will be no rent control without approval by the voters, putting direct democracy up as a roadblock to any measure that the council might consider in the future; the proposition takes away the council’s ability to pass any laws on the matter. If the voters favor Prop B, both landlords and tenants are left in the conflicting conditions of county and state rules, many of which are dependent on pandemic conditions.

If Prop B fails, then the council’s work is done, and both property owners and renter will know exactly where they stand.

After more than 40 public comments and hours of extensive discussion, the City Council voted to introduce both ordinances.

From the City, here is a summary of key provisions.

Rent Control Ordinance

Exemptions

Dwelling units expressly exempt from rent control per state or federal law.
Dwelling units occupied after February 1, 1995.
Single-family homes, condominiums and townhomes.
Subdivided interest in a subdivision.
Government subsidized dwelling units.
If California Proposition 21 is approved by voters in the November 2020 election, units occupied for longer than 15 years and corporate-owned single family homes would not be exempt and would be subject to City’s rent control ordinance.

Maximum Allowable Rent Increase

Maximum allowable annual rent increase is the average annual change in the consumer price index (“CPI change”).
If CPI change is less than 2%, maximum allowable annual rent increase is 2%.
If CPI change is more than 5%, maximum allowable annual rent increase is 5%.
Prior increase under Interim Rent Control Ordinance in combination with a rent increase under permanent ordinance may not exceed maximum allowable annual rent increase.

Landlords May Re-establish Rents at Market Rates When:

Tenant voluntarily vacates, with certain limitations.
Tenant is evicted based on “for cause” grounds.
Tenant is evicted based on “no fault” grounds, with the following limitation: if vacated for landlord’s relative to move-in, the unit must remain relative’s primary residence for three years.

Landlords May Not Set Rents to Market Rates When:

Tenant vacates due to landlord harassment.
Tenant is evicted before the end of their first year (12-month “vesting” period).
Tenant voluntarily vacates pursuant to a tenant buyout agreement due to untenantable conditions (such as major renovation).

Rent Adjustments Exceeding Maximum Allowable Increase

Process for landlord to request a rent adjustment if they can demonstrate the limitations on rent increases will prevent the Landlord from receiving a fair and reasonable return with respect to the operation of the property.

Capital Improvement Pass-Through Program

50% of the cost of eligible capital improvement projects may be passed-through to tenants, amortized over the useful life of the improvement, with an aggregate cap of the pass through costs not to exceed 3% of tenant’s rent.
Eligible capital improvement projects include the addition of new capital improvements, but not the renovations or replacement of existing capital improvements.

Rent Registry

All rental units must be registered with the City.
Registration must be updated annually, upon a new tenancy, and when there are changes in housing services for the unit.
Tenant Protections Ordinance

Eviction Protections

Evictions must be based on “for cause” or “no fault” grounds.
“For cause” includes failure to pay rent; breach of rental agreement; failure to provide reasonable access to unit; tenant’s use of unit to create a nuisance or for an illegal purpose; tenant was the resident manager who has been terminated.
“No fault” includes recovery of unit in order to: demolish; remove from rental market; move-in landlord or landlord’s relative, provided they must continue to occupy property for at least 3 years; comply with deed or regulatory restriction; comply with government or other order necessitating the vacancy.
Tenants protected from eviction include: long-term tenants who are 62 years old or disabled; terminally ill tenants; low-income tenants; tenants with school-aged children protected during the school year.

Exemptions from Eviction Protections

Eviction protections do not apply within the first 12 months of tenancy (12-month “vesting” period).
Eviction protections do not apply to units that lack their own bathroom or kitchen facility.

Relocation Assistance

Three times the greater of current rent in effect or market rent, plus $1000.
Landlord may deduct past due rent, with the exception of back rent accrued during City’s Residential Tenant Eviction Moratorium period, as well as amounts to cover extraordinary wear and tear.
“Small Landlords” (defined as those owning 3 units or less within and outside of Culver City) shall only pay 50% of the amount of relocation assistance otherwise due.

Exemptions from the Payment of Relocation Assistance

Tenant was on notice prior to entering rental agreement that application to subdivide property or convert the building for a condominium, stock cooperative or community apartment project was on filed or approved by the City.
Landlord’s recovery of the unit and eviction of tenant was in compliance with government or court order to vacate due to natural disaster or act of God conditions.

Tenant Protections During Temporary Untenantable Conditions

Landlord has obligation to take steps to make unit safe for tenant during the work or to relocate tenant to comparable living arrangements.
If work is anticipated to last for more than 30 days, tenant may voluntarily terminate tenancy and enter into buyout agreement with the landlord.
If work continues to persist for more than 30 days after projected completion date of the work, tenant may renew their option to voluntarily terminate tenancy and enter into buyout agreement with the landlord.
Landlords must provide 30 days’ notice prior to construction with shorter period for emergencies.

Tenant Buyout Agreements

Rules and procedures for a landlord to offer tenant a buyout agreement.
Retaliatory Eviction and Anti-Harassment
Adoption of local anti-harassment laws

The new laws are scheduled to go into effect on October 30, 2020. Pending the outcome of the municipal election, rent control will cross the goal line, or be permanently benched.

Judith Martin-Straw

 

 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

2 Comments

  1. What is missing from the article is the financial impact on our city’s already Covid-19 depleted resources. This ordinance was originally budgeted to cost our city’s taxpayers ~$400,000 per year to administer. At Last night’s council meeting we were disgusted but not surprised to learn the Rent Control program now is expected to cost taxpayers over $1,000,000 per year to administer. Our city could have used the yearly $1,000,000 to give direct rental assistance to families in need instead of giving discounted rent to tenants regardless of their financial situation. Our tenants will still be protected under state Rent Control 1482 which is one of the most protective Rent Control Ordinances in our country. The waste continues! Why would anyone support this council’s future tax measures with this kind of financial mismanagement.

    Keith M. Jones
    Member, Culver City Financial Advisory Committee

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