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City of Santa Monica Adds Additional Renter Protections

Effective March 14, 2024, the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance No. 2776 goes into effect, which adds additional tenant protections, including the following:

  • Financial assistance for constructive evictions: Amendments to the Tenant Relocation Code will add five additional grounds under which tenants can receive permanent relocation financial assistance, including if:
    • their housing is not covered under state or local law on excessive rent increases and their landlord imposes an increase of more than five percent plus inflation, or ten percent, whichever is lower;
    • they are forced to move because their living situation is not tenable, including if they’ve been displaced for six months or more or if a building official orders relocation because the housing is unhabitable.
  • Protections against excessive rent increases: An amendment to the Tenant Protection Code would bar landlords from imposing excessive rent increases that substantially exceed the market rate.
  • Further strengthening anti-discrimination rules: Amendments to the Housing Anti-Discrimination Code will prohibit discrimination based on housing status and bar landlords from refusing to make basic repairs required by the Santa Monica Housing Authority to participate in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
  • Added protections from harassment: Amendments to the Tenant Harassment Code clarify and expand the types of actions that constitute harassment, including:
    • changing locks and doors to evict a tenant
    • refusing to accept rent payments
    • imposing excessive or unlawful rent increases; and
    • retaliation against a tenant for reporting a violation 

The amendments also outline examples of prohibited coercion and intimidation, including: (a) refusing to cooperate with a tenant’s request to lawfully replace an occupant who has moved out; and (b) repeatedly offering to buy a tenant out after having been informed the tenant does not want to be bought out. The amendments increase the maximum penalty for harassment from $10,000 to $20,000 per violation.

  • Extending protections to tenants in non-rent-controlled units: Amendments include extending buyout agreement protections to tenants in non-rent-controlled multi-family housing subject to local just cause eviction protections. Any buyout agreement — when a tenant agrees to move out of their unit in exchange for money or a waiver of rent — must be for at least the amount required by the Tenant Relocation Code, and the new rules allow tenants to cite a landlord’s failure to file a buyout agreement with the city as a defense against an eviction.

In addition to the code amendments listed above, the City Council directed staff, in consultation with the city’s Rent Control Board, to draft a charter amendment to go to the voters that would prohibit evictions for tenants with small rental debts and evictions based on a tenant making authorized alterations to their unit without a city permit.

The law firm of Wallace, Richardson, Sontag & Le, LLP represents landlords, property management companies, institutional and private lenders, employers and insurance companies throughout the State of California in real estate, business and employment litigation. The information provided herein is for general interest only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.

June 12, 2024 | Law Firm News |