Norma Duran and her family got an unwelcome Christmas gift Monday.
Returning home from school, her 19-year-old daughter found an envelope affixed to the door of their Pomona apartment: “60-DAY NOTICE TO VACATE,” the missive said. “You must move out and remove all your personal belongings from the property.”
In other words, the Durans must be out of their Anderwood Court home of 10 years by New Year’s Day or face legal proceedings and possible penalties equal to three times their monthly rent.
“I lost my appetite. I got mad. It felt like they were stepping on a cockroach,” said Duran, 48, an under-employed caregiver. “I’ve lived here 10 years and never was one day late on the rent, and this is how they treat me.”
Seven other renters in the Durans’ 19-unit building just north of the 10 freeway got similar notices. Their property manager said they’re emptying the units for renovations. But the tenants believe they’re among a rising tide of California renters who got pre-emptive, 60-day move-out notices in advance of AB 1482, the state’s new rent-cap law.
“They said it’s because they need to renovate, but we all know it’s because of the new rent control law,” said Hanan Gibani, a neighbor who didn’t get one of the notices.
Residents of eight units in this apartment building on Anderwood Court in Pomona received 60-day notices to vacate their apartments by Jan. 1. The property manager for the 19-unit building said the notices have nothing to do with the state’s new rent-cap law, AB 1482, which takes effect on Jan. 1. (Photo courtesy of Hanan Gibani)
The new law caps rent increases at 5% plus the rate of inflation (currently 2.9% in the Western U.S.), retroactive to March 2019. And it imposes “just cause eviction” provisions, banning move-out notices for tenants in good standing unless the landlord needs to renovate the unit, move into the unit or take it off the rental market. And even then, the landlord must pay the tenant one month’s rent in relocation assistance.
Thursday, Oct. 31, is the last day landlords can issue a 60-day notice and take advantage of a loophole in the new law, which takes effect on Jan. 1. If the tenants move out by the end of December, landlords can raise the rent however much they want before a new tenant moves in.
Current law allows landlords to issue move-out notices unilaterally without giving a reason, provided the renter isn’t under a lease and gets at least 60 days notice, 30 days if the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year.
Nobody knows how many tenants have received such notices.
Daniel Yukelson, CEO of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said his group hasn’t heard of large numbers of landlords issuing such “no-fault evictions.”
But tenants’ rights groups say the number of calls reporting the practice has been mounting. San Francisco-based Tenants Together, a statewide tenants’ rights group, reported a bump of 20% to 30% since last summer when the statewide rent-cap measure was under review.
And prominent eviction attorney Dennis Block said in a recent YouTube video, “We’ve been serving these up like hotcakes.”
Block and others maintain the practice is a legitimate way for landlords charging below-market rents to get around AB 1482’s rent cap.
But even some landlord leaders have been squeamish about the practice.
“We do not condone pre-emptive evictions in advance of Assembly Bill 1482’s effectiveness,” Yukelson said.
Delivering a move-out notice without any consideration of what’s going on with the property or what’s going on with the tenant “is certainly unconscionable,” added California Apartment Association Vice President Debra Carlton.
At least eight California cities considered passing an emergency ban on no-fault evictions until AB 1482 takes effect, with six passing it. The cities of Los Angeles and Milpitas voted last week to adopt such moratoriums, while the city councils in Bell Gardens, Daly City, Santa Cruz and Redwood City adopted similar provisions this week. Anaheim and Burbank rejected attempts to enact such a ban Tuesday night.
Block, who claims to be the nation’s leading eviction attorney, has been advocating for months that landlords take advantage of the window closing on Thursday, posting a countdown to the deadline on Twitter and urging property owners to “call my office for assistance.”
“Kick them out. Serve a 60-day notice,” Block said during an Apartment Owners Association seminar in mid-October posted on YouTube. “Do you have to feel guilty? … The answer is no. Did we create this problem? No. Did our Legislature create this problem? The answer is, of course, they did.”
But tenants’ rights groups argue landlords should think about the human consequences of preemptive move-out notices.
“Property owners should think about the domino effect of their decisions,” said Lupe Arreola, executive director of Tenants Together. “Just because you want to increase the rent, someone has to (move) further and further out. They may have to switch jobs or their children may have to switch schools. … it affects their entire lives.”
Dave Levy, programs specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, said his agency has gotten at least 20 calls from tenants getting move-out notices in recent weeks.
“We’re getting people who are long-term tenants, 10 or 11 years, suddenly getting the notice for no apparent reason,” Levy said. “ … That’s a blow around the holidays. Typically, we don’t see landlords handing out such notices at this time of year because it’s not a good time to re-rent those units.”
Meanwhile, the statewide emergency declaration Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Sunday in response to California’s wildfires provides added rent protections for all housing in the state, even those not covered by AB 1482. Under long-standing anti-price gouging rules, rent hikes are limited to 10% a year for at least 30 days.
A manager of Norma Duran’s apartment building said the timing of the move-out notices, just four days before the AB 1482 deadline, has nothing to do with the new rent-cap law. The tenants have complained about the condition of the units, and she verified kitchen cabinets, carpeting and windows need to be replaced.
“You can’t do the repairs with people inside,” said Mabel Salcedo, of InveServe Corp., the owner’s agent. “It has nothing to do with this law coming in or anything.”
Duran had been paying $1,100 a month for her two-bedroom apartment until Oct. 1, when the rent jumped $150 a month, a 14% hike. Now that they have to move, the cheapest deal they could find that’s close to their jobs and her children’s schools was $1,700 a month — for a one-bedroom unit. That’s too small for her family. Two bedrooms are renting for at least $2,000 a month, which is way more than she can afford.
“The truth is, I don’t know (where we’ll live). We don’t have the money to move,” Duran said. “On Christmas, we have to be on the street. We have to move out in December. They’re not treating us like human beings. That’s my opinion.”
— Bay Area News Group reporter Jessica York contributed to this report.
Huggins Homes' take: This is common sense that we told you would happen if this legislation passed. The next thing you'll see is landlords being forced to increase their rents by the maximum amount each year, regardless of if they would have done so previously or not. Like the old saying goes "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it."
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