Capitol Alert

California moves to protect tenants by limiting rent increases and evictions

Rent control advocates chant outside hearing at California State Capitol

Rent control advocates with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment chant in support of repealing the Costa Hawkins housing act outside at joint Senate and Assembly hearing on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in Sacramento.
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Rent control advocates with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment chant in support of repealing the Costa Hawkins housing act outside at joint Senate and Assembly hearing on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in Sacramento.

A California bill to cap rent increases and prohibit certain evictions is on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk following a Wednesday Assembly vote to approve the strongest tenant protection measure this year.

Assembly Bill 1482 would limit how much landlords can annually raise rent to 5 percent plus inflation. The measure would also restrict evictions to a “just cause” reason, meaning unless a renter has violated the terms of the lease, he or she cannot be thrown out.

Newsom is expected to sign the bill after his office negotiated with the author, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Democratic leadership this summer. The Democratic governor congratulated the Senate after its members approved AB 1482 by a 25-10 vote on Tuesday.

“In this year’s State of the State address, I asked the Legislature to send me a strong renter protection package,” Newsom said following the Assembly vote. “Today, they sent me the strongest package in America. These anti-gouging and eviction protections will help families afford to keep a roof over their heads, and they will provide California with important new tools to combat our state’s broader housing and affordability crisis.”

The law would sunset in 2030 and exempts newer houses built within the last 15 years. It also excludes single-family homes not owned by real estate companies, as well as duplexes that the owner also occupies. Landlords could also evict tenants who have lived in the unit for less than a year.

Democrats backing the bill, including Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, have argued that the measure is not “rent control,” but rather prevents “egregious” rent increases they said can exceed 100 percent. Californians rejected a rent control ballot measure in 2018.

“(Assembly Bill 1482) is very different,” Atkins said on Tuesday following a 25-10 Senate approval of the bill. “There is a big distinction in difference. We’ve been very clear what this cap is, how it will be used and when there is a sunset. This is not rent control.”

Republicans, however, have continuously fought in committee hearings and during floor votes against what they said is a proposal that would discourage housing production and punish small property owners.

“We all know California has an unacceptable housing and affordability crisis,” Assembly Republican leader Marie Waldron said. “Unfortunately, this bill will just pour fuel on the fire. We’re already seeing the impacts of this rent control scheme. Preemptive rent increases, impossible restrictions on leases, and a slowdown of badly needed new homes.”

Groups including the California Association of Realtors and California Rental Housing Association also oppose the bill.

“Why are the big corporate landlords not opposing this bill,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City. “Because they’re getting a hell of a deal. They’re going to continue raising rents 8 percent a year for the foreseeable future, and the mom and pop shops who actually are the ones who keep the rents low will have that (that cap).”

Chiu said his bill was an opportunity to fill the legislative gap to assist renters while lawmakers figure out a construction solution to California’s 3.5 million-unit deficit after the Legislature held a major housing production measure earlier this year.

Chiu said AB 1482 would protect the “millions of Californians who are one rent increase away from eviction and homelessness.”

“This bill will prevent egregious rent gouging and predatory evictions, while striking a balance to allow landlords to make a fair rate of return,” he said during Wednesday’s floor vote. “Until we build the 3.5 million units that will stabilize our state’s housing crisis, we need to help Californians stay in their longtime homes.”

The Assembly passed the bill on an 46-22 vote. Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign the measure.

Editing note: A previous version of this story stated the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill. It is now neutral.

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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.