Evictions Continue to Surge as Tenants Wait for California Rent Cap Law to Take Effect

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An anti-eviction graphic spray painted on the sidewalk in San Francisco's Castro District. (torbakhopper/flickr)

For the past two months, Daly City resident Ethel Rodriguez has been helping neighbors who are facing eviction get legal advice through the community-based group Faith in Action. Then on Nov. 9, she and her family received a notice to vacate the apartment they’ve been living in for a decade.

“It’s my worst nightmare come true,” said Rodriguez. “I feel frustrated, angry and sad.”

Rodriguez is one of many renters across the state who are receiving eviction notices shortly before the state’s new rent cap law, AB 1482, goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The law, also known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, limits annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation as measured by the consumer price index.  The law also requires landlords to give "just cause," or a legitimate reason as defined by law, for evicting renters.

Some tenant advocates say there’s been an uptick in evictions since September, when AB 1482 passed the state Senate.

Lupe Arreola, executive director of San Francisco-based tenants rights group Tenants Together, said calls to their hotline regarding evictions have increased by more than 20% over the past two months.

Arreola said the law, which was intended to give tenants more protection, is instead hurting them because of a major loophole: There is no provision in the legislation to halt evictions between the date it was signed and the date it takes effect.

“Any landlord will try to take advantage of that time before the law is enacted to actually go ahead and try to evict tenants,” said Arreola.

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Landlord and apartment associations say that AB 1482 will make it harder for property owners to balance the need for maintaining and renovating their properties with the need to provide safe and affordable housing.

Russell Lowery, executive director of California Rental Housing Association, which mostly represents small mom-and-pop property owners, said AB 1482 will make severing relationships with problematic tenants more difficult and more costly.

“My members can pay $30,000 to $40,000 for an eviction,” said Lowery. “That's more than they're going to make on rent in the first place.”

Meanwhile, Tenants Together is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state attorney general's office to enact a statewide eviction moratorium. Over a dozen cities around the state, including Los Angeles, Pasadena and Daly City, have passed ordinances of their own.

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The city of Menlo Park unanimously passed emergency protections for renters at a City Council meeting this week.

“We heard from several tenants who were being evicted without cause and who were getting excessive rent increases,” said Menlo Park City Councilwoman Betsy Nash. “These are people who have been living in the same building for well over a decade, sometimes several decades.”

Daly City also passed an emergency eviction moratorium, but it won't protect Rodriguez, whose eviction notice was dated a day before the local ordinance was enacted.

“It has been very difficult,” said Rodriguez, who hopes to keep her family in Daly City. “We have been searching around and there are no apartments really that we can afford, so we don't know at this point if we are going to be able to remain in our community.”