January 15, 2020 9:00 AM
by Tracy Condon
The City’s Rent Control Law protects most Santa Monica renters from big rent hikes and unwarranted evictions. Tenants who live in any of the roughly 28,000 units covered by the law (which applies to most units that were built before 1979) can have their rents increased only by slightly less than the rate of inflation every year, and can be evicted only for one of 10 specified reasons.
But the rent control law doesn’t apply to every unit in the City. Some units—most notably those built after 1979 and those in properties with three or fewer units, one of which is occupied by the owner—are exempt from the rent control law’s protections. By 2010, it had become apparent that tenants were being evicted from those units without cause, so the City addressed this problem with Measure RR. That voter-approved measure applied eviction protections to nearly all Santa Monica tenants, regardless of whether they live in a rent-controlled unit.
But state law prevented the City from applying rent-level protections to most units that had been built after 1979, and the City Charter prevented rent-level protections for units in properties with three or fewer units in which one unit was owner-occupied. So landlords could induce tenants to leave by the simple expedient of dramatically increasing their rents.
The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (State Law AB 1482) addresses this problem. It limits rent increases for units not subject to local rent-control law to the rate of inflation plus 5 percent (which, this year, adds up to 8.3 percent in Santa Monica) or 10 percent, whichever is less. While this new state law, which went into effect on January 1, provides less rent-increase protection than the rent control law, it prevents tenants from being displaced by rent hikes that are intended solely to drive them out of the units. The Legislature anticipated that some landlords might try to blunt the law’s impact by dramatically raising rents before the January 1 effective date. As of New Year’s Day, any rent increase since March 15, 2019, greater than the maximum allowed must be rolled back to the rent in effect on March 15 plus 8.3 percent.
Please note, AB 1482 is a state law, not a local ordinance or Charter provision, and these protections for non-controlled units are not enforced by the City.
To learn more about rent control in Santa Monica, visit smgov.net/ rent control or call 310.458.8751.
Rent Control Administrator