California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Saturday to strengthen eviction protections for tenants and close a loophole in an existing law that has allowed landlords to bypass the state's rent cap.
The measure updates a historic law of 2019 which created rules on evictions and set a rent limit of 5% plus the inflation rate, with a maximum of 10%.
Under the 2019 law, landlords can evict tenants for “fault” or “no-fault” reasons. “Fault” reasons include failure to pay rent on time. Under “no-fault” rules, landlords can break leases by saying they need to move into the units, make repairs or take the units off the rental market.
Tenant advocates said some landlords have taken advantage of “no-fault” evictions to get around the state rent cap. They pointed to a case in Santa Clara County in which a landlord evicted tenants, citing the need to relocate family members, but then put the units back up for sale at nearly double the price.
Under the new law, landlords who move into their units or rent them to a family must also identify the people moving in. Additionally, the rental must be occupied within three months of eviction and they must live in the unit for at least one year. Those who evict tenants to remodel properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices.
Landlords who do not comply will have to allow evicted tenants to return under the terms of the original lease.
“Today is a victory for all Californians,” said Michelle Pariset, director of legislative affairs for Public Advocates, the group that sponsored the legislation. “Thanks to this law, more of our neighbors will be able to stay in their homes!”
The law, authored by Democratic state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, also allows the attorney general, local government and tenants to sue landlords for wrongful evictions and illegal rent increases.
Advocates said they have worked with several local governments to close the loophole, but the new law will ensure landlords across the state can no longer abuse the system.
The bill faced fierce backlash earlier this year from powerful landlord groups, who said the changes went too far and successfully pressured lawmakers to remove a provision that sought to lower the state's rent cap. at 5%.