The 2019 Tenant Protection Act (TPA) went into effect on January 1, 2020—just over three years ago. By bringing rent control and just cause for eviction requirements to millions of Californians, the TPA safeguarded California renters by limiting the power landlords had to upend tenants’ lives through massive rent hikes or termination notices on as little as two months’ notice. However, certain compromises in the law, likely the result of appeasing landlords and investors to secure passage, limit its effectiveness and highlight the need for further advocacy and measures to extend tenant protections beyond 2029.
That 2029 date is a good place to start. By their own terms, Sections 1947.12 and 1946.2 of the Civil Code, which provide rent control and just cause for eviction requirements respectively, will expire on January 1, 2030. Given how long it usually takes to pass new laws, it should be no surprise that you are already seeing campaign workers with clipboards collecting signatures for petitions to create new tenant protections even as we are still learning how effective the current ones are working.
Under the TPA, rent control and just cause for eviction protections only apply after the first year of tenancy. This means that whether you enter an oral rental or written rental agreement, you may nonetheless face rent increases beyond those permitted under the TPA or face eviction for reasons not allowed under the TPA in the first year of living in your rental unit. Given that many renters do not have enough saved for an additional security deposit in the event of a forced relocation, especially after just moving into a new home, this loophole can disproportionately impact the most economically disadvantaged Californians.
It is often said that a right is only as good as the remedy. While the TPA defines things a landlord can and cannot do, it stopped short of creating any agencies or procedures for enforcing these limits. Rent ordinances passed by cities and counties usually create a rent board or other agency within local government to whom renters may turn if landlords raise the rent beyond the legal limits or do anything else to interfere with tenants’ rights. Without such an authority to turn to, Californians reliant on state laws must go to the courts, which can be a serious challenge to those without the ability to find or resources to pay a lawyer.
While the TPA was a great step forward for tenant rights across the State of California, it is important to remember that protections under the TPA will expire in fewer than seven years. We at Tenant Law Group hope for a fairer and more equitable future with stronger, permanent rent control and just cause for eviction protections for California renters—particularly the most vulnerable among us.