Just Cause for Eviction

In my last column, I reviewed three California laws that interfere with negotiations between landlords and tenants. State Assembly Bill 1482 or the “Tenant Protection Act of 2019” went into effect January 1. It prevents residential landlords from raising rent more than 5 percent, plus the local rate of inflation, in a single year. State Senate Bill 329 prevents landlords from considering the source of a tenant’s income; specifically, landlords cannot discriminate against renters who use Section 8 housing vouchers. Finally, there’s Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent extension of Penal Code Section 396, the anti-gouging rule that went into effect after wildfires ravaged the state. Section 396 prevents landlords from raising the rent on all housing types, including vacant units, more than 10 percent above pre-emergency levels.

Just Cause for Eviction

Well, here’s another part of AB 1482 you should know about: the Just Cause for Eviction section that also went into effect January 1. Before this year, a landlord could evict a tenant for any reason or for no reason at all. If a tenant was a disrespectful jerk who called at 5:00 pm on a Friday evening to report a problem and then cussed out the landlord because she couldn’t get a repairman to his home until Monday, the landlord could simply opt not to renew the lease agreement. Or, if neighbors saw the tenant selling drugs at the property (but the tenant had not been convicted in a court of law), the landlord could simply begin eviction proceedings.

Now things have changed. Landlords cannot evict tenants for no reason if they have lived there more than 12 months. There must be “just cause.” There are two types of just-cause evictions: at-fault (the tenant does something wrong) and no-fault (the tenant doesn’t do anything wrong).

At-Fault Just Causes

At-fault just causes include: (1) not paying rent, (2) breach of the lease agreement, (3) causing a nuisance, (4) seriously damaging the property, (5) refusing to sign a lease extension on similar terms, (6) criminal activity including threats of serious violence against the landlord, (7) illegally assigning or subleasing, (8) refusing to let the landlord legally enter to make repairs or show the property, (9) using the premises for an illegal purpose, (10) a resident manager failing to leave when terminated, and (11) failing to move after giving notice to the landlord of that plan.

No-Fault Just Causes

Thanks to AB 1482, the only allowable no-fault just causes include: (1) the landlord wants to move in a family member or occupy the property themselves, (2) the landlord decides to withdraw the property from the rental market, (3) the landlord has been legally ordered to vacate the property [e.g. condemned or illegal building], or (4) to “substantially remodel” the unit which will take at least 30 days to do and it is unsafe to continue occupancy. If you are a landlord, be sure your lease agreement includes these no-fault just causes for eviction.

A no-fault just cause eviction entitles the tenant to relocation assistance or a rent waiver. The relocation fee must be equal to one month’s rent and it must be paid within 15 calendar days of the service notice of termination of tenancy. Also, in your notice of termination, you must include the no-fault just cause for eviction and you must inform the tenants of their right to relocation assistance or a rent waiver.

As a landlord, it is more important than ever to vet potential tenants. Talk to previous landlords. Talk to their employers. Do a background check. Once tenants reside in your property, it’s tough to get them out—even when it shouldn’t be. As I said last week, this new law will not only frustrate landlords but will make the housing shortage worse.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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