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Santa Monica State Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Protect Tenants from Ellis Evictions


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By Jorge Casuso

February 20, 2018 -- Santa Monica State Rep. Richard Bloom introduced a bill last week that would bar landlords who empty rent controlled buildings under the state Ellis Act to return the property "piecemeal" to the rental market.

Bloom’s Assembly Bill 2364 also would require landlords to give all tenants one year's notice that they are being evicted, rather than 120 days. Current law requires a one-year notice only for seniors and people with disabilities.

"Advocates from around the state are seeing instances of landlords evicting all tenants in a property and then returning those units in a piecemeal fashion to rental market, skirting the original purpose of the law," Bloom's office said in a statement.

The 1986 Ellis Act was originally passed to protect small-time landlords struggling to make ends meet under rent control a way to get out of the rental market.

But speculators in high-rent cities like Santa Monica began using the law to buy rental properties and convert the units into condominiums or rent them at market rates under vacancy decontrol.

In 2003, the Ellis Act was amended to require landlords to wait at least five years before renting the units at market rates.

Bloom said he is worried that the Ellis evictions are countervailing the state's efforts to provide affordable housing as rents across the state skyrocket.

“Building more housing is important, but families, seniors, disabled people, and young working adults need immediate help now," said Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor. "We should not be pushing them out of their homes, their communities, because of legal loopholes.

"This is contrary to the spirit of the Ellis Act when it was passed more than 30 years ago. AB 2394 restores that spirit.”

Since its enactment, the Ellis Act has been used to withdraw 2,975 units from the Santa Monica rental housing market, according to a report released by the City's Rent Control Board last year ("Santa Monica Provides Lesson as Interest in Rent Control on the Rise," September 21, 2017).

A total of 852 of the units returned to rent-controlled housing. The net loss was 2,123 controlled units, many of which did return to the housing market but as market-rate multi-family construction, including condominiums.

Bloom's bill comes a month after a bill he introduced to allow California cities to expand rent control failed to pass out of committee ("Santa Monica Lawmaker's Rental Bill Fails to Pass Committee," January 12, 2018).

Supporters of the bill, who packed the chamber, gave emotional testimony and vowed to continue fighting.

Two other housing bills were introduced Thursday.

A bill sponsored by State Rep. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would give tenants more time to pay rent -- 10 days instead of three -- before landlords can start eviction proceedings.

State Rep. Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced a bill that would require landlords to show “just cause,” or a specific and valid reason, before trying to evict tenants, who would have more time to respond.


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