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Alberto Torrico: Restore 60-day notice for tenants

Faced with a tight housing market, soaring rents and other challenges,
California’s tenants suffered another blow this year when the law that
required 60 days’ notice for no-fault evictions expired.

Since January 1, landlords have been required to provide only 30 days notice
to remove a tenant. This is true even if the tenant has paid rent on time
and done nothing to violate the rental agreement. Many no-fault evictions of
non-problematic tenants involve owners who want to convert to condominiums
or to sell the building. Property owners have the right to do this, but
tenants should have the right to not have their lives completely disrupted
by the process. In California’s tight housing market, an additional 30 days
can make a big difference to an evicted tenant.

That’s why I am authoring Assembly Bill 1169, which would restore to tenants
in good standing who have been in the same home for at least one year the
60-day notice requirement that was California’s law from 2003 until 2006.

AB 1169 received final legislative approval last week. Its fate is now in
Gov. Schwarzenegger’s hands, and tenants throughout the state are hoping the
governor will restore their rights by signing it.

As a legislator who has long fought to balance the rights of businesses and
consumers, I can’t emphasize how important it is to restore the 60-day
notification. The previous 60-day requirement worked well, providing needed
protection to tenants without imposing an unreasonable burden on landlords.

The new law would not benefit bad tenants who violate their rental
agreements. Landlords still would be able to give three-day notices to
tenants who don’t pay rent, destroy the apartment or engage in illegal
activities.

The 60-day protection of AB 1169 would apply only to tenants who fulfill
their rental agreements but have the bad luck to live in a building that a
landlord has decided can be more profitable with an alternate use. And
though some landlord groups argue that such “good” tenants are never
evicted, that is simply not the case when the value of a unit can more than
double by being converted from a rental to a condominium.

In fact, it appears that the expiration of the 60-day notice law has led to
thousands of additional evictions this year. A study of all cases filed at
two courthouses since March 1 shows that evictions for failing to move
before the end of the notice period, known as “holdover evictions,” have
increased by 27 percent over the same period last year. If the same pattern
is found throughout the state, 23,000 more holdover-eviction cases will be
filed this year than in 2005.

In a state with one of the lowest vacancy rates in the nation, 30 days is a
tight window to find new housing–especially for residents who face barriers
beyond a scanty and expensive rental supply. For example, in single-parent
households or in households where all adults are working, it’s a big
challenge to dedicate the time needed for an intensive housing search.

Parents must balance school and day-care concerns, and seniors need to be
close to public transit and health care. These tenants may need extra time
to find suitable homes.

Finally, a fast move requires a large amount of cash that may be difficult
for tenants to provide on short notice. Many hard-working Californians live
from paycheck to paycheck and don’t have funds available to pay for a credit
check and security deposit, in addition to the first month’s rent. With only
30 days’ notice, deposits for new apartments usually must be provided before
the old deposit is received from the former landlord.

Those with disabilities face additional issues. They often need first-floor
units that have been fitted with special provisions, such as ramps and wider
doorways. It can take much longer than 30 days to find such units.

I recognize the need for property owners to have control over their
apartments and to receive a fair return on their investments. But tenants
caught up in this state’s housing maelstrom need protection too. Restoring
60 days’ notice for good tenants who are evicted through no fault of their
own is the least we can do to restore sanity to our rental system.


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