On Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 the Santa Cruz City Council, voted to push an “interim” Just Cause for Eviction ordinance to the next round of voting. However, during the second meeting held on January 23rd, the City Council voted to postpone moving forward with the ordinance due to a large amount of community feedback (over 1000 letters) opposing the measure.
Having originally voted “yes” on the ordinance, vice Mayor Justin Cummings proposed tabling the initiative and giving both Staff and community members time to rework the proposal. “I just want to put that out there, because if members of our community are very concerned and want to work on kind of coming together to think about what we can craft as a whole that is going to help our community, I would very much encourage members from MHJ, the Movement for Housing Justice, and Santa Cruz Together, to come together and work with members of the City Council and work on something that will actually help our community,” said Cummings. To read more about that meeting, take a look at this article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The proposed ordinance, labeled “An Interim Ordinance Of The City Council Of The City Of Santa Cruz Requiring Just Cause For Tenant Evictions Within The City” will dictate when landlords can, and cannot, evict tenants. You can find the proposed ordinance here and a summary, including a recorded video of the City Council Meeting, here (click 2019, and the meeting dated 1/8/19). We’ve provided a summary of its contents and other pertinent details below.
What Is In the Proposed Ordinance?
If voted into law, under the proposed ordinance Landlords can only evict a Tenant if one of the following “just causes” is present:
- The tenant fails to pay rent – this point is straightforward.
- There is a substantial breach of lease – if the tenant breaches the lease, the landlord must first serve a written Notice to Cease, and if the tenant continues to substantially violate material terms of the housing lease, then the landlord may evict the tenant. There is a MAJOR exception to this point: the landlord may NOT evict a tenant because of a Tenant’s sublease of the Rental Unit so long as:
- the rental unit is the primary residence of the original tenant;
- the sublessee replaces one or more departed tenants under a valid rental agreement on a one-for-one basis. If a child or family member of the tenant is added to the household, the landlord may not use this as a cause for eviction unless such an addition exceeds the maximum number of occupants allowable under Section 503(b) of the Uniform Housing Code;
- the landlord either did not respond to or has refused to accept a Tenant’s request to sublease based on reasons stated in the ordinance (see page 4, 2.a.iii).
- The tenant permits or commits a nuisances, or causes substantial damage to the Landlord’s rental unit.
- The tenant engages in Criminal Activity.
- The tenant fails to give the landlord access as required by law.
- If the landlord needs to make necessary and substantial repairs that will take longer than 30 days, the landlord can ask the tenant to leave, but must give him or her the first right of refusal for the same or another comparable unit at the same rent.
- If the landlord intends to move a family member into the unit, with certain restrictions (you can find these in point 7 of page 5).
- If the landlord intends to withdraw the unit from the rental market.
If a landlord fails to to comply with any requirements of this Ordinance, including the failure to serve any required notices, the tenant can take legal action to recover possession of the Rental Unit. If the tenant wins his or her case, the landlord will be liable for “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs”.
According to Santa Cruz Together, a couple of changes were made to the draft ordinance at the January 8th meeting:
- If the owner lives on the same property, it is exempt from the Just Cause for Eviction laws above. If approved in the next meeting, this change will be advantageous for those with ADUs or duplexes.
- Partner was legally defined as registered domestic partner. However renters can still move in other family members without owner permission, beyond the number on a lease, and up to the federal occupancy limit.
A Timeline of the Proposed Ordinance
If this ordinance is voted into law at the next Council meeting, that day will become its “Effective Date”. It will take effect 30 days following its final adoption, but will apply retroactively on or after December 11th, 2018 and will automatically terminate 90 days from its Effective Date.
We have been following the proposals of and legislative processes related to rent control, just cause for eviction, and large rent increase laws in the City of Santa Cruz closely. If you are a property owner or investor in the Santa Cruz City limits, and would like to discuss your options, feel free to contact me: (831) 600-6550, firstname.lastname@example.org.