All across Southern California, tenants and their advocates have sounded the alarm over evictions and lease terminations following the passage of a state law that caps rent increases and instates eviction protections starting January 1, 2020. In response, several cities in the region have imposed moratoria to prevent tenants from being kicked out of their homes before the new law goes into effect. On November 12, following a vote by the city council, Long Beach became one of them.
The urgency ordinance approved by the city council that day was proposed by 9th District Councilmember Rex Richardson, who said residents of his district had approached the city council after their landlord ordered them to vacate their apartment last month.
Richardson told the Business Journal he reached out to colleagues in Torrance, Pasadena and other cities in the region to find out how widespread the issue was. In speaking to the elected officials and city staff of nearby municipalities, Richardson was able to identify a trend. “They said they’ve been hearing these stories as well,” he recounted. “There was enough to say: there’s a real strategy being deployed here to move people out before the deadline. And the law itself is creating an incentive.”
Assembly Bill 1482 was signed into law on October 8. It caps rent hikes at a maximum of 10% or lower, depending on local cost of living increases. The new law also protects tenants from having their lease terminated unless their landlord provides one of 18 qualifying causes for the termination, which are listed in the bill’s text. The list includes at-fault causes, such as failure to pay rent, and no-fault causes, such as a landlord’s plans to substantially remodel the property.
However, the bill does not put a cap on rent increases between tenants, meaning that once a tenant moves out, landlords are free to set the rent of the unit at whatever amount they desire. Dennis Block, a real estate attorney who has gained notoriety for offering eviction seminars to landlords in the wake of the new law, published a warning on social media days after it was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. “#Landlords,” he tweeted, “your window of opportunity is closing […] you have less then 7 days to serve your tenant a notice to quit to avoid the new rent control law.”
Richardson’s proposed ordinance was fashioned after similar moratoria approved in the cities of Los Angeles, Cudahy, Bell Gardens, Pasadena and Torrance in Southern California, and Milpitas, Redwood City and Santa Cruz to the North. In its essence, the moratorium approved by the Long Beach City Council invalidates any notices of lease terminations with move out dates on or after November 12, as well as notices issued after that date, until the new state law goes into effect.
“The delayed implementation of AB 1482 has caused an incentive for landlords to evict tenants to avoid AB 1482’s protections in a predatory manner that is harming the health and safety of Long Beach residents,” Richardson’s letter to the council stated. “A temporary pause on no-fault notices and evictions in Long Beach will protect residents in the interim of AB 1482’s enactment and will furthermore help stabilize the rental market while the City adapts to new state laws.”