Chula Vista’s Tenant Protection Ordinance takes effect March 1
The City of Chula Vista’s new Tenant Protection Ordinance goes into effect on March 1. It's intended to close no-fault eviction loopholes, but some say it may also have some unintended consequences for landlords.
Along with limiting no-fault evictions, the ordinance provides more tenant relocation assistance and protect tenants from landlord harassment and retaliation.
“It also sets a precedent for other cities," said Jose Lopez, director of the San Diego Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). “In San Diego County, we have probably the weakest tenant protection in the whole state. We’re the only major city who allows these types of evictions to continue to happen.”
The new law was passed by the Chula Vista City Council last fall, after tenants reported their landlord was evicting them to remodel the property and also harassing them to vacate the property.
Lopez said the ordinance is needed “because of investors that are coming in, buying up properties, kicking people out and then jacking it up to market rate.”
Lopez said the ordinance "is not only going to help protect tenants so they can continue to stay in their homes, but is also going to help keep our housing affordable.”
Under the ordinance, any landlord who serves a no-fault eviction notice to a tenant will have three business days to file that notice with the city.
Gilberto Vera, senior attorney of the housing team at Legal Aid Society of San Diego, said the data about how many people are being displaced by no-fault evictions will help the city make policy choices in the future.
“That’s kind of what the goal of this ordinance is ... preventing displacement of tenants who are not doing anything wrong, especially tenants who are particularly vulnerable to falling into homelessness,” Vera said.
The ordinance had been opposed by the Southern California Rental Housing Association. The group’s president, Lucinda Lilley, warned there could be unintended consequences for landlords, such as "rental housing providers being fined or — God forbid — face criminal charges for having communication with their residents.”
Lilley said many Chula Vista properties were built in or before the '80s, and need significant renovations. She said because of the ordinance's “Substantial Remodel” requirements, many properties will continue to deteriorate if a landlord can’t afford to relocate the tenant.
“What the city of Chula Vista put on is: Unless the cost was going to be $40 per-square-foot or more, we would have no right to relocate the tenant in order to make these upgrades or renovations that are necessary. That puts at risk the quality of housing stock that is available,” Lilley said. “We don’t need to lose more housing off of the stock that we have. And then the people that don’t have the ability to move back into their own properties, even if they themselves have experienced financial hardship due to any number of reasons.”
Lilley said this ordinance will significantly affect the large population of active duty military homeowners who rent out their homes while they’re deployed. She said they may then have to pay their tenants a relocation fee that could be up to two months' rent to move back into their own home.
“We are all part of the same community and if we don’t work on all of these situations together, rather than against each other, they will continue to get worse,” Lilley said.
Lilley said she was aware of one landlord’s harassing behavior that was brought before the Chula Vista City Council, but noted that one landlord’s behavior is not happening on a broad basis.
“We are working very hard to remain at the table to come together with ACCE and the tenant’s rights advocates and Legal Aid, all of those organizations who seem to think that we’re the bad guys and let them know that we are just like they are,” Lilley said. “We’re grandmothers. We’re fathers. We’re sisters. We’re brothers and we are part of the community too.”
SCRHA is offering its members a webinar on the new ordinance. The San Diego Eviction Prevention Collaborative also has information about tenant rights on its website, and ACCE plans a "Know Your Rights" presentation at the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library on March 1.
This particular ordinance only applies to tenants in the city of Chula Vista. The city of San Diego is currently working on a similar version of these protections.
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