El Cerrito has adopted new tenant protections. On May 22, 2019, El Cerrito added Chapter 10.300 to its Municipal Code, titled “Just Cause for Eviction and Prohibition on Harassment of Tenants”. The new ordinance will provide just cause eviction protections and protection from harassment for tenants in buildings with five or more units built before January 1, 2015. The ordinance goes into effect on June 20, 2019.
What units are covered by the El Cerrito Just Cause Ordinance?
The El Cerrito Just Cause Ordinance covers all rental units except:
- Rental units with a certificate of occupancy issued after January 1, 2015;
- Rental units in buildings with four or fewer units;
- Accessory dwelling units;
- A room or any other portion of any rental unit that is occupied by the landlord or a member of the landlord’s immediate family;
- Housing accommodations in hotels, motels, group housing, supportive housing, transitional housing, general residential care, and bed and breakfasts;
- An on-site manager’s living unit;
- Any rental unit where the tenancy is an express condition of employment by the landlord;
- Any rental unit for which rent is controlled or regulated by any government agency, or for which rent is subsidized by any government agency; and
- Any rental unit owned by the City or any other government agency, and intended to be used for public purposes.
What are the just causes for eviction?
There are eight just causes for eviction:
- Failure to pay rent;
- Breach of the rental agreement;
- Tenant illegal activities;
- Violations of applicable Health and Safety Code;
- Unit will be substantially renovated;
- Landlord condominium conversion;
- Landlord will remove unit from market for a minimum of five years; or
- Landlord, or landlord’s parents or children, will move into unit.
If the landlord is terminating a tenancy because the unit will be substantially renovated, the landlord must first obtain all necessary permits from the City to imminently begin and diligently complete the permitted work. And, the landlord must seek in good faith to undertake substantial rehabilitation or planned capital improvements or other necessary rehabilitation that will temporarily remove the rental unit from the rental market because the rental unit will imminently become unfit for human habitation.
If the landlord is removing the unit from market, the landlord must, within 60 days, demolish the rental unit or otherwise remove the rental unit from any residential rental use for a minimum of five years. Removal of a rental unit from the market includes a landlord’s election to sell the rental unit to a bona fide purchaser. If the rental unit is returned to the rental market within the five-year period, the tenant has a right to return to the unit.
If the landlord is moving into the unit, the landlord, or one of the landlord’s parents or children, within 60 days, must move into and reside in the rental unit as his or her permanent residence for no less than 10 months of any calendar year and for no less than two consecutive years from the termination of tenancy. If the rental unit is returned to the rental market within the two-year period, the tenant has a right to return to the unit.
Additionally, in order to evict a tenant, the landlord must prove all of the following:
- That the landlord has a valid business license;
- That the landlord provided the tenant with a notice of tenant rights;
- That the landlord served a notice of termination stating the just cause; and
- That the landlord has not accepted rent after the notice period ends.
What are the anti-harassment protections?
The prohibition on harassment of tenants provides that no landlord may do any of the following in bad faith, with ulterior motive, or without honest intent:
- Interrupt fail to provide, or threaten to interrupt or fail to provide any housing services under a rental agreement, including but not limited to utility services and other amenities and services agreed to by contract;
- Fail to perform repairs or maintenance required by contract or by State, County, or local housing, health, or safety laws;
- Fail to exercise due diligence to complete repairs and maintenance once undertaken, including the failure to follow industry-appropriate safety standards and protocols;
- Abuse or otherwise improperly use Landlord’s right to access a Rental Unit;
- Remove personal property of a Tenant from a Rental Unit;
- Influence or attempt to influence a Tenant to vacate a Rental Unit by means of fraud, intimidation, or coercion (including but not limited to threats based on immigration status);
- Offer payment or any other consideration, in return for a Tenant vacating a Rental Unit, more often than once every six (6) months;
- Threaten a Tenant by word or gesture with physical harm;
- Interfere with a Tenant’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of a Rental Unit;
- Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of lawful rent from a Tenant;
- Refuse to cash a Rent check for over thirty (30) days;
- Interfere with a Tenant’s right to privacy;
- Request information that violates a Tenant’s right to privacy;
- Other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb a Tenant’s comfort, repose, peace, or quiet enjoyment, and that cause, are likely to cause, or are intended to cause a Tenant to vacate a Rental Unit; or
- Retaliate against a Tenant for the Tenant’ s exercise of rights under this Chapter or the Municipal Code or State or Federal law.
What are a tenant’s remedies when a landlord violates these protections?
A tenant may file a lawsuit for money damages, injunctive relief, or both, whenever a landlord retaliates against a tenant for the exercise of any rights under the Just Cause for Eviction and Prohibition on Harassment of Tenants Ordinance or whenever a landlord engages in activities prohibited under the Just Cause for Eviction and Prohibition on Harassment of Tenants Ordinance.
The full text of the Just Cause for Eviction and Prohibition on Harassment of Tenants can be found here.