Bill protects tenants from unfair rent hikes, eviction

Lisi Ludwig/Staff

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In September, the California State Legislature passed a bill providing legal protections against exorbitant rent increases and arbitrary evictions for tenants throughout the state, but some local representatives say it does not go far enough. 

AB 1482, authored by District 17 Assemblymember David Chiu, places a statewide cap of 5% plus cost of living adjustments on annual rent increases, as determined by the consumer price index, or CPI. It also gives tenants specific protections against arbitrary evictions. Although many see the bill’s success as a step forward in mitigating California’s ongoing housing crisis, some believe it does not adequately address an issue that warrants more drastic action.

“This is a step to capping rents, however five percent plus CPI is a tiny bandaid,” said Paola Laverde, chair of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board. “After four years tenants will see 20% plus (CPI) rent increases.”

More than half of California’s 17 million renters are “rent burdened,” meaning that they pay more than 30% of their household income toward rent each month, according to the bill’s fact sheet. In addition, only about one-quarter of all renters have legal protection from being evicted without cause at the end of their leases.

The bill, titled the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, applies a 5% blanket maximum on statewide rent increases, but including the annual adjustment based on the CPI, this cap is closer to 8%. The bill also exempts newly constructed units for 20 years before making them subject to the new rules.  

District 4 Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison said although she thinks the bill’s just cause eviction provisions are a victory for the many Californians who do not already have them, the 5% plus cap of the CPI is too high and the 15-year exemption is too long. 

“Millions of renters in California are just one rent increase or eviction away from becoming homeless,” said Jennifer Kwart, Chiu’s communications director, in an email. “While we absolutely need to build more housing to address our housing shortage, we also need to keep people in the homes that they are living in now. AB 1482 will help do that.”

Berkeley already has strong just cause eviction laws in place but is unable to apply any new rent control measures because of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a state law prohibiting cities from implementing any new rent control. 

Costa-Hawkins only exempts properties built before the city’s last rent control ordinance was passed, which for Berkeley was in 1980. This means that only properties built before the 1980 cutoff remain protected.

Proposition 10, a 2018 state ballot initiative, would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins law, but the former failed to obtain voter approval during the midterm elections. Although it is not perfect, many see AB 1482 as picking up where Proposition 10 left off. 

“There are some people who make the mistake of saying this does nothing,” said Soli Alpert, a commissioner on the Rent Stabilization Board. “That is not true, this is fantastic, but at the same time it is still totally inadequate.”

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to AB 1482 as AB 482.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that AB 1482 exempts newly constructed buildings from the new rules for 20 years. In fact, new buildings are exempt for 15 years.