California continues to crack down on landlords pursuing unjust evictions

December 21, 2022,


 

Dear landlords, no need to be the bad egg — that is, when you stay away from unjust evictions.

In an effort to ensure tenants are informed on their protections, a consumer alert about tenant rights was released in 24 languages on behalf of California’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

With the alert now available in 24 languages, more people have access to knowing their basic rights in a landlord-tenant relationship. The OAG is hammering down on landlords about the Tenant Protection Act (TPA) as the law has a crucial impact on landlord practice.

Without cause, the landlord of a property subject to the Tenant Protection Act (TPA) may not evict the tenant. These properties include multi-unit residential housing in California and those single family residential (SFR) units owned by a real estate investment trust (REIT), a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC) with a corporate member. [Calif. Civil Code §1946.2(e)(8)]

Since the expiration of the Tenant Relief Act (TRA) in July — the TRA delayed residential evictions due to the financial distress of coronavirus — the OAG has been finding new ways to crack down on landlords who practice:

  • self-help evictions, when utilities are shut off or locks are changed to force the tenant out; and
  • unjust evictions, when a tenant is evicted without just cause.

When landlords are aware of their rights as well as tenants, informed decisions are able to be made. Thus, the consumer alert sets the ground rules for landlords of property subject to the TPA. Landlords:

  • may evict a tenant with a court order — and a court order only;
  • may evict a tenant for just cause;
  • may increase rent no more than 10% in a year;
  • need to repair health and safety issues;
  • need to return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out and after taking out deductions for costs such as cleaning, repairs, or any unpaid rent;
  • need to provide accommodations for tenants with disabilities;
  • may not discriminate against a tenant due to race, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, marital status, income source, veteran status; and
  • may not retaliate against a tenant for exercising their rights.

Related article:

Self-help evictions: the new forbidden fruit for California landlords

A refresher on just cause evictions

There are two kinds of just cause evictions: at-fault and no-fault. To qualify for an at-fault just cause eviction, the tenant:

  • defaulted on a rental payment;
  • failed to enter into a landlord-requested renewal or extension of a lease; [See RPI Form 565]
  • breached a material term of the lease;
  • committed or permitted a nuisance or waste to occur on the property;
  • conducted criminal activity on the premises or common areas, or used the premises for an unlawful purpose;
  • assigned or sublet the premises in violation of the expired lease;
  • refused the landlord’s authorized entry into the premises; or
  • failed to deliver possession after providing the landlord notice to terminate the tenancy or surrender possession. [CC 1946.2(b)(1); See RPI Form 576-1]

To qualify for a no-fault just cause eviction, the tenant is being evicted under no fault of their own when the:

  • landlord or their spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents or grandparents intend to occupy the premises;
  • property is withdrawn from the rental market;
  • property is unfit for habitation as determined by a government agency and through no fault of the tenant; or
  • landlord intends to demolish or substantially renovate the property. [CC 1946.2 (b)(2); See RPI Form 569-2 §3]

Related article:

Accept partial rent, retain a tenant

Multi-unit residential real estate exempt from the “just cause” eviction procedures include:

  • residential units that have been issued a certificate of occupancy within the previous 15 years;
  • a duplex of which the owner occupied one of the units as their principal residence at the beginning of the tenancy and remains in occupancy;
  • units restricted as affordable housing for households of very low, low, or moderate income, or subject to an agreement that provides subsidies for affordable housing for households of very low, low, or moderate income;
  • dormitories constructed and maintained in connection with any higher education institution in California;
  • units subject to rent or price control that restricts annual increases in the rental rate to an amount less than that set by the TPA;
  • multi-unit transient occupancy housing like hotels and motels;
  • accommodations in which the tenant shares kitchen or bathroom facilities with an SFR owner-occupant;
  • SFR real estate that can be sold and conveyed separate from the title to any other dwelling unit, like in a SFR subdivision or condominium project, provided:
    • the owner is not one of the following:
      • a real estate investment trust (REIT);
      • a corporation; or
      • a limited liability company (LLC) in which at least one member is a corporation; and
    • the tenant has been given written notice stating the rental property is exempt from the rent increase caps under the TPA. [CC §1947.12(d); CC §1946.2(e); See RPI Form 550, 551 and 550-3]

When a residential property or tenancy does not meet any of the criteria for exemption, the landlord is to abide by the TPA limiting their ability to increase the rent or evict a tenant to regain possession.

Landlords exempt from the TPA requirements may continue to use all existing RPI forms, as these are unchanged by the TPA.

Related article:

2020’s Tenant Protection Act Part II: Rent caps

The legal consequences aren’t worth it

It’s important that along with understanding what calls for a just cause eviction, landlords understand what they may or may not do in their landlord-tenant relationship.

When landlords are guilty of violating the rights of their tenants, landlords may face consequences such as a:

  • court trial;
  • penalty fine; and
  • jail term of one year or less.

Instead of pursuing unjust evictions, landlords and other real estate professionals need to build rapport with tenants to establish and strengthen client relationships. When the market bounces back from the incoming recession around 2026, tenants will want to take the leap in becoming homebuyers again.

Subscribe to firsttuesday’s newsletter, Quilix, for more updates on unjust evictions and the housing market!

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