Redondo ‘shuts window’ on rent gouging, evictions
by David Mendez
The City of Redondo Beach has slammed shut a window on predatory housing practices, banning both no-fault evictions and extreme rent hikes with an urgency ordinance that will hold until new statewide renter-protection laws take effect in January. The Redondo Beach City Council unanimously passed the ordinance on Tuesday night, which was one of two possible selections made available for consideration by the City Attorney’s Office.
The passage made Redondo one of four municipalities to pass such an ordinance on Nov. 12, alongside Gardena, Long Beach and Alhambra. Redondo’s ordinance was largely modeled from a similar ordinance passed by Torrance, after city officials also examined laws from Los Angeles, Pasadena, Redwood City, Bell Gardens and other municipalities.
On Nov. 7, the Council discussed an ordinance that would solely ban no-fault evictions, which take place when a landlord seeks to end a lease, wishing to remove a tenant for no fault of their own. (At the other end of the spectrum are just-cause evictions, which can occur when a tenant breaks the term of their lease or defaults on rent payments.) The adopted second option aligned the city’s ordinance with the effects of Assembly Bill 1482, which limits rent increases to 5 percent of existing rent, plus cost-of-living increases up to a maximum of 10 percent, within a 12-month period.
“We’ve heard complaints about the narrow window of opportunity for gouging…it’s like if you’re in a hurricane zone, and a Home Depot or Lowes raises prices, or hotels gouge everyone with huge increases, taking advantage of a natural disaster,” Mayor Bill Brand said.
Both the urgency ordinance and AB 1482 allow for other varieties of no-fault just-cause evictions, including situations in which a landlord seeks to make major renovations to a unit, takes the unit off of the rental market, or plans to move into the property themselves.
But Redondo’s urgency ordinance provides relief for Redondo residents such as Laura Sola and Keziah Dhamma, who testified at last week’s Council meeting. The two residents spoke at last week’s meeting after having been served with a 60-day notice of eviction — Sola would have been forced to leave in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, while Dhamma would have been forced out less than a week after her second child is due to be born.
The ordinance doesn’t help residents who have already moved out of their units and signed new leases after receiving 60-day eviction notices. “I know a lot of people like me…I found another place, I already signed my lease, I paid for the month of November there,” one man said in testimony before the Council. “These are great, but they don’t do anything for me or anyone like me.”
Tom Wooge, a local landlord, testified that the ordinances also harm people like him, who own additional homes as rental properties or investments.
“I have some skin in the game; I haven’t turned evil. It’s a laudable goal to attempt to stabilize rents, increase affordability and preserve long-term stability. Who can argue against that?” But the ordinance, he argued, would penalize landlords who have kept rents low to retain tenants.
“Now there’s pressure to increase rents to the maximum every year…you’re also rewarding greedy landlords, landlords who have been maximizing rent increases. Some could call that good property management, but you can say from a tenant’s point of view that they’re too greedy.” Wooge then proposed the City take steps to increase the available housing stock by encouraging lot subdivisions for developing lower-cost units.
Brand agreed with Wooge’s observation, characterizing smaller landlords who keep rents low and cannot raise them as more sympathetic than large landlords.
“We’re not punishing the landlords, we’re punishing the renters…but the state has passed this. It’s not taking effect until January 1,” Brand said. “There’s gouging going on…you’re seeing people forced out around Christmas because their rents are going through the roof. We’re trying to close a narrow window.”