UPDATE: City Council unanimously approves ‘no-fault’ eviction freeze

UPDATE | The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a no-fault-eviction freeze Tuesday night as an impediment to notices being served to residents in the lead-up to a statewide rent control bill that will become law in January.

By approving the emergency ordinance the City Council provided a shield for tenants through the end  of the year. After that, Assembly Bill 1482 will limit annual rental increases to five percent plus inflation and also includes language prohibiting no-fault evictions.

No-fault eviction generally refers to an eviction that occurs when a tenant has not broken the lease agreement between them and the landlord. Reports of no-fault evictions being issued spiked after Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated he would sign the the rent control bill in September.

However, there are provisions for landlords to still remove tenants who are not in breach of a lease in situations where the units are being converted to condos or if the unit is needed to house a family member of the landlord.

Long Beach joins a long list of cities across the state that have enacted moratoriums on no-fault evictions to try and keep residents in their homes through the holidays.

Because it was an emergency ordinance, the City Council measure became effective immediately after the mayor signed it, which occurred shortly after the vote Tuesday.

PREVIOUSLY: City Council will move forward with ‘no-fault’ eviction freeze

11/5/19 at 9:24 p.m.| The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to begin drafting an ordinance that could protect renters in the city by placing a moratorium on no-fault evictions issued by landlords seeking to empty units prior to a statewide rent control law taking effect.

The item was introduced by Councilman Rex Richardson with support from councilmembers Jeannine Pearce and Roberto Uranga, who sought to block evictions by landlords trying to force out tenants to raise rents before the new state law goes into effect on Jan. 1.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on Nov. 12. Richardson said it could serve as a stopgap by keeping long-term residents in their homes through the holidays. No-fault evictions are those that are served to tenants who have not violated the terms of their lease.

“We have a responsibility to keep these people in their homes,” Richardson said. “This is not their fault. It is ‘no-fault.’”

The ordinance is expected to be similar to Los Angeles’ recently passed freeze, with the addition of language that would require tenants in Long Beach that have already been paid partial payouts to move to either return the money to the landlord if they intend to stay, or to continue the move-out process if it is already underway. If they remain and don’t reimburse the tenant relocation assistance, that could constitute a breach of the lease.

Because it is an emergency ordinance, it would go into effect immediately rather than requiring a second vote and then a 30-day wait from when the mayor signs it.

Meet the tenants who face evictions over the holidays unless council ordinance passes

Senate Bill 1482 was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October. The law caps annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation and requires landlords to show just cause (typically some kind of violation of the lease) before evicting tenants who have lived in units for over one year, won’t go into effect until January.

The law applies to units that are over 15 years old and sunsets after 10 years.

Municipalities across the state have enacted similar emergency ordinances to temporarily block no-fault evictions before the new state law takes effect. Los Angeles, Alhambra, Pasadena and Torrance are just a few local cities that have already voted to protect its renters from evictions over the next two months.

The Long Beach ordinance would block no-fault evictions retroactively as far back as Sept. 14.

Opponents of the effort include the California Apartment Association, which sent a letter to the mayor and City Council this week saying it was unnecessary due to the city’s existing tenant relocation policy that went into effect in August, among other reasons.

That law requires landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants in good standing that are displaced by rent increases of 10% or more in a given year or by the remodeling of units. The payments range from $2,700 to $4,500 depending on the size of the unit.

The letter urged the council to phase out the tenant relocation policy, which has higher payouts than the state law.

Mike Murchison, a lobbyist who represents landlords in Long Beach, said that the move was purely political grandstanding.

Dozens of community members packed the council chambers Tuesday night to speak in favor of the council moving forward with a eviction moratorium.

The number of speakers, which reached over 60, prompted the council to vote on further restricting speaking time to one minute, down from the 90 seconds it recently reduced speaking time to from the original three minutes that speakers had historically received.

They demanded that the council act to protect renters from predatory evictions and called on them to craft an ordinance that did not exempt certain units as it had in the past.

Karen Reside, a member of the Long Beach Grey Panthers, said that some of these evictions should constitute elder abuse. She called the actions of some landlords to serve evictions during the holidays the “cruelest of the cruel.”

“We know the landlords do not have our community’s best interest at heart,” Reside said. “Nobody gave refunds on the rent increases they did when the rent control ordinance was supposed to be passed. This is purely driven by profit and it’s destroying the fabric of our community.”

Gretchen Swanson, a resident of Rose Park, said her neighborhood could not wait for this ordinance. She said hundreds of her neighbors have been evicted through systematic displacement that has struck the neighborhood or late.

“Let’s keep everyone home for the holidays,” she said. “My city council should embrace the values of the holiday season, don’t be a scrooge.”

Opinion: Rose Park’s other tragedy

Susanne Browne, a senior attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles which is part of a coalition of groups supporting the ordinance, said that Long Beach’s ordinance is fair and measured when compared to other cities’ votes which include anti-gouging language or rent freezes. And she said it is needed regardless if some types of evictions are already legally invalidated.

Despite 60-day notices issued after the beginning of November already being covered under the new state law Browne said the ordinance is important because it will provide “absolute clarity” for both landlords and tenants.

“Unfortunately we don’t live in a world where all landlords know or are abiding by the new laws and we need ordinances like these to inform people of their protections,” Browne said. “Residents in Long Beach have had few protections and not all tenant are aware of those that already exist.”

Browne added that the Long Beach ordinance being retroactive to mid-September is fair because that’s around the time that Newsom indicated the bill would become law which in some cities set off a race by landlords to evict tenants to raise rental rates before the start of the new year.

“We’re trying to create a safe harbor until the end of the year because there are some landlords with bad intentions,” Browne said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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