On Oct. 8, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1482 into law, which caps annual rent increases to five percent per year plus the cost of inflation — putting the total maximum increase to about 9 percent. The legislation also requires that landlords have a “just cause” to evict a tenant. However, AB 1482 doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2020, and the state’s law doesn’t prevent landlords from evicting tenants only to put units back on the market with higher rent before next year.
While data is sparse, there have been a number of reports of an uptick in the number of renters being issued 60-day notices to vacate their homes since the legislation passed. In an effort to protect residents at risk of financial hardship or homelessness given the Bay Area’s housing shortage, several municipalities such as Redwood City, Daly City, Milpitas, San Mateo, San Carlos and Menlo Park have enacted emergency ordinances limiting evictions, rent increases or both. Just ahead of a Dec. 3 City Council meeting, Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein added an agenda item for a similar emergency measure.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in evictions and rent increases,” Klein said.
Discussion among Council Members centered on concerns that a few bad-acting landlords are trying to take advantage of the three-month delay between when the legislation was signed and when it goes into effect, by engaging in rent gouging or evicting good tenants for no good reason.
The Mayor’s proposed emergency ordinance was originally formulated to mirror the requirements of AB 1482 and make them retroactive to Oct. 8. However, Council Members Russ Melton, Gustav Larsson and Mason Fong would not support making the ordinance retroactive. Conversely, Mayor Klein along with Council Members Glenn Hendricks, Nancy Smith and Michael Goldman were largely in agreement that, though the retroactivity was less than ideal, it was the only way to protect tenants, given that 2019 is nearly over.
Hendricks criticized state lawmakers several times for putting municipalities in a difficult position. Because AB 1492 didn’t pass with a two-thirds majority, it couldn’t be enacted immediately.
“I feel like I’m the shovel at the end of the horse parade — that’s how I feel about Sacramento,” Hendricks said.
A motion to pass the emergency ordinance without the retroactive aspect was ultimately approved by Council, with a ‘no’ vote cast by Hendricks who pointed out that it’s too late for the ordinance to have any effect without the retroactive component. Many community members spoke at the meeting urging Council to enact the ordinance, while a few landlords expressed concern about making it retroactive to Oct. 8.
“The rush for last minute evictions and rent increases is extremely disturbing to us and to our organizations,” said Richard Mehlinger, Vice Chair of Livable Sunnyvale and Executive Board member of the Democratic Club of Sunnyvale. “AB 1482 was intended to protect tenants while balancing the needs of landlords, and it was passed with the agreement of the California Apartments Association. Most landlords are not acting unscrupulously but there are a small number of bad actors who are.”
Mehlinger went on to warn that evicted tenants can face devastating consequences such as homelessness and disruptions to children’s education. A pair of roommates also spoke at the meeting sharing their story of recently being issued a 60-day notice to vacate without explanation despite one of the women having lived in the unit for 14 years and having always remaining in good standing in terms of rent payment. She stated that she must vacate the home by Dec. 27 and plans to live in her van while searching for a new place.