City Council will repeal tenant relocation law as state rent control law takes hold

The Long Beach City Council approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday to cancel its own tenant relocation assistance law it established earlier this year, with officials saying new state legislation will actually protect more tenants.

The 8-0 vote Tuesday night directed the city attorney’s office to begin writing the new ordinance that would erase a law that went into effect Aug. 1  requiring landlords to pay relocation amounts ranging from $2,700-$4,500 if a resident is displaced from a unit through no fault of their own. The policy also protects tenants if their rents are raised more than 10% in a year.

The council instructed staff to also write a policy that keeps one aspect of the tenant relocation law: A separate program that would assist seniors and disabled persons who have been displaced from their homes.

The state law, Assembly Bill 1482, approved earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October, caps rent increases at 5% annually while incorporating a no-fault eviction clause—evictions issued for tenants in good standing who didn’t violate the lease terms—that also requires payments by landlords who evict tenants in good standing. However, the state law requires a payout of one month’s rent, which is less than the $2,700 for a studio to $4,500 for a three-bedroom unit that was required by Long Beach’s ordinance.

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Residents and community groups pleaded with the City Council to keep the protections of the city ordinance in place, arguing that the steeper penalty for displacement outlined in the city ordinance served as a better protector of tenants.

They held signs that read “Amend Don’t Repeal” as they asked the council to rewrite the ordinance to better coexist with state law.

Elsa Tung, a research and policy analyst with Long Beach Forward, a non-profit community group that has worked with tenants for years in Long Beach, said it was unfair that the City Council was considering the repeal of the hard fought victory that tenants earned earlier this year.

She equated a vote to amend as a vote to protect renters while a vote to repeal was a vote to abandon them. “The solution is to take the best of both worlds,” Tung said. “The solution is to amend, not repeal. Amend the Long Beach ordinance to include the state tenant protection act in its entirety except to keep Long Beach’s higher tenant relocation amount.”

City officials defended the idea of doing away with the ordinance because of its conflict with the state’s law. The two laws have different triggers for when payments by landlords would be required. Also, because the state’s law did not carve out exemptions like the city’s ordinance did for smaller rental units as well as duplex and triplex units, they said the state’s law would actually protect more Long Beach renters.

The projected difference in protected units is about 20,000, according to the city’s analysis provided to the council.

New law will require payments to displaced renters starting Aug. 1

Acting City Manager Tom Modica said working with one law going forward would make renter protections more understandable for renters in the city as they would not have to navigate when and where the state law supersedes the local protections currently on the books.

“We do believe this is going to create a lot of confusion for both landlords and tenants who don’t know which one applies in which case,” Modica said. “In general, the relocation required under the state is going to apply to more tenants and actually be more money.”

A city staff memo stated that because the city’s relocation ordinance trigger is set at 10% increase of rent in a year and the state’s is 5%, the state law renders the city ordinance inoperable.

The emergency ordinance will likely return to the City Council in the coming weeks as the Jan. 1 implementation date for the state law approaches. Once voted on by the council and signed by the mayor, the ordinance will repeal tenant relocation assistance at the city level at the end of 2019.

Tuesday’s vote marks the second time in a month that the City Council took emergency steps on a renter protection issue. In November it approved an emergency ordinance that retroactively barred evictions that were issued by landlords who were trying to move tenants out of buildings before the state’s rent control law takes hold next month.

 

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