January 24, 2024 4:31 PM
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (Jan. 24, 2024) — The Santa Monica City Council Tuesday approved a slate of added protections for renters, including prohibitions against drastic rent increases, unjust evictions and harassment.
The updates are in addition to robust renter protections already in place, and in response to a regional increase in eviction filings resulting from the expiration of COVID-related protections, along with the ongoing housing crisis.
Tuesday’s council action will result in amendments in the Tenant Protection Code, Housing Anti-Discrimination Code, Tenant Relocation Code, Tenant Harassment Code and Tenant Buyout Agreements Code.
These amendments further solidify protections for the city’s renters — approximately 70 percent of Santa Monica residents — and create greater housing stability, in alignment with the city’s strategic priorities of Addressing Homelessness and Justice, Equity & Diversity.
“Renters make up the majority of our Santa Monica community, and many have called this city home for years,” Mayor Phil Brock said. “It is critically important that families who make up the fabric of our city have the ability to stay here.”
The approved amendments will take effect 30 days after the second reading of the ordinances, which will take place at the council meeting scheduled for Feb. 13.
Approved amendments include:
- 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, a tactic sometimes used to influence tenants to move out, in effect circumventing the requirement for the landlord to have just cause for eviction.
- 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 to 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
- refusing to cooperate with a tenant’s request to lawfully replace an occupant who has moved out
- repeatedly offering to buy a tenant out after having been informed the tenant does not want to be bought out
- 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.
Public Information Officer