California’s 2024 Tenant Protections: A Leap Towards Just Evictions and Rent Control
California leads the nation in many kinds of protections for the most vulnerable members of society. Sometimes those protections are best described as a work in progress. This was certainly true of AB1482, commonly known as the 2019 Tenant Protection Act. At the end of September however, with the signing of SB567, the laws enacted by the TPA have grown from a firm foundation to a solid structure that should provide more certain shelter to California tenants. This post discusses two ways in which this revision of the law helps renters: its establishing clear requirements for no-fault just cause evictions, and creating penalties for violating either the rent increase caps and the just cause requirements.
Just Cause Not “Just Cuz”
When the TPA went into effect on January 1, 2020, a major weakness quickly came into focus. If they wanted to strip away the protections of the new law, landlords could simply pay a rent—controlled tenant a single month’s rent and provide a notice informing them that their unit was going to receive substantial renovations, was being removed from the rental market, or would be used as a primary residence by the landlord or a family member. These claims did not have to be substantiated in any way and there was no criteria for deciding whether the landlord had satisfied the requirements of the law or not. If the landlord evicted someone because they said they would be moving in but had not done so in six months, did that mean they had broken the law? Were plans to gut an apartment down to the studs that existed only in the landlord’s head enough to justify a notice to vacate even though they had no plans, permits, or money to do the work? Tenants were left uncertain. The legislature has now stepped in to address this ambiguity.
Now, in order to properly claim that they have discharged their obligation under the law, an owner or their family member who claiming § 1946.2(b)(2)(A)(I) must move in within three months of the tenant vacating and live in the reclaimed unit for at least twelve continuous months as their primary residence. Likewise, a landlord planning to evict a tenant to complete substantial renovations under § 1946.2(b)(2)(D)(I) must now provide documentation proving that work is about to commence, such as signed contracts or permits, and a notice that if the renovation is not completed, the tenant may return at the original rent. While this scenario can still create situations where a landlord may use their neglect to justify removing the tenant from their home, it no longer can be done only through their claim that they intend to repair a truly uninhabitable dwelling.
A Remedy Worthy of the Right
As originally drafted, Civil Code Sections 1946.2 and 1947.12 created many restrictions that landlords had to follow, but no specific punishments if they failed to follow them. It has often been said that a right without a remedy is no right at all. This could mean that a tenant who found out that they were being overcharged for rent or had been forced to move without just cause and sued their landlord might discover that after legal fees and court costs, they could end up with practically zero compensation for their trouble. Now however, a landlord may be ordered to pay a tenant’s fees and costs, as well as up to three times their actual expenses resulting from the landlord’s violation of the statutes and punitive damages as well if the they are judged to have acted willfully or with fraud, malice, or oppression.
The new versions of California’s tenant protections are set to become the law of the land on April 1, 2024. If you have questions about how they might affect your rights, contact a tenant rights attorney like those at Tenant Law Group today.