City Council to vote Tuesday on revised relocation ordinance

After years of planning and months of debate, the Berkeley City Council is in the final stages of updating an ordinance that would require landlords to provide payments to tenants who are displaced from their housing units.

The council will vote at its meeting Tuesday on the updated Relocation Ordinance, which looks to expand relief for relocated tenants in the city by specifying payments that landlords would have to make. Previous versions of the ordinance have been presented to council over the past two months but have not passed.

Language about who would be able to receive these relocation payments and whether to provide funds for pet relocation has presented major roadblocks to the ordinance passing and has caused several delays.

If the new version is passed, tenants would be given a per diem payment based on the size of their households if they are displaced for 29 days or fewer, according to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. These payments would be $120, $135 and $166 for one-, two- and three-or-more-person households, respectively.

Furthermore, if tenants are displaced for 30 or more days, landlords would be required to pay them $400 as a “dislocation allowance” along with other fixed funds and a rent differential payment, which are expected to make up the cost difference between old and new housing.

The version the council will discuss Tuesday limits relocation payments to those who are on the written lease or pay their rent directly to the landlord. Pet reimbursement has been limited to cats and dogs and only those who are agreed to on the written lease.

Arreguin said that while he expects the council to pass some version of the ordinance, it is unlikely it will contain all of the new language.

“We are so narrowly writing this law that it limits tenants’ rights and do not reflect the relationships that tenants have with their landlords,” Arreguin said.

He said these new definitions limit renters’ rights and negatively affect students, who often have agreements with their landlords that differ from traditional leases.

The Berkeley Property Owners Association first raised concerns about the definition of “households” and “pets” to the Housing Advisory Commission, according to commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil. When the association felt its concerns were not properly addressed, it brought them to City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting. The council then tabled the issue and sent it back to the commission, which subsequently discussed the ordinance at its Nov. 6 meeting.

The new ordinance would significantly alter the original, passed in 1986, by detailing specific amounts landlords have to pay and removing the maximum time limit for payments.

“(The) existing law limits relocation payments to 90 days — the new law says the landlord is required to pay until the tenant is able to move back in the unit,” Arreguin said.