The Chula Vista City Council on Tuesday will consider two ordinances intended to address disputes between renters and landlords.
The first proposed ordinance would limit the permissible reasons for terminating a renter’s tenancy.
Under Assembly Bill 1482, passed in 2019, landlords can use “no-fault just cause” reasons to evict tenants if they are demolishing their property or removing it from the rental market, moving into the property or planning a substantial remodel.
No-fault evictions have become among the most common reasons why tenants have sought legal assistance or called on cities to issue eviction moratoriums, said Gilberto Vera, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego. The Society has received more than 750 requests from tenants in Chula Vista seeking housing assistance since January 2020.
Chula Vista’s proposal still allows for substantial remodels as a fair no-fault eviction, but it imposes additional restrictions on landlords.
For example, the state qualifies a substantial remodel as work, such as electrical, structural or plumbing, that requires a tenant to vacate the property for their own safety for at least 30 days. Chula Vista’s ordinance would extend that to 60 days. If a property was taken off the market and offered again for rent two years later, the city’s proposal would give the tenant displaced from that unit first dibs if they notify the landlord.
Chula Vista’s ordinance also identifies eight more kinds of harassment than the state, including that landlords cannot verbally abuse or threaten a tenant, influence vacancy through fraud or coercion and refuse their rent payment.
The draft landlord and tenant ordinance comes after several tenants’ rights groups asked the City Council for stronger renter protections after reports of tenant harassment and evictions, particularly in west Chula Vista.
Landlords, renters and advocates on both sides have debated Chula Vista’s proposal. Tenants mostly want a local law that will protect them where the state law does not. Property owners say the city’s ordinance is too similar to AB 1482 and that jurisdictions have not yet seen what impacts the law could have on the rental industry due to eviction moratoriums implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For months, families have pleaded during council meetings for an eviction ban or additional rental assistance.
Dora Parra was one of the latest renters who broke down and asked council members during a May 3 meeting to protect her family from eviction as they had a month to vacate their unit and “there’s no affordable housing in San Diego County.”
Property owners and landlord advocates worry the proposal’s language favors tenants.
“It’s my understanding that Chula Vista is trying to close the gap on abuse with substantial remodels and that they had some bad actor landlords that were taking advantage of that, but I don’t think the language of how it’s drafted now is addressing that,” said Allison Higley, associate attorney at Todd A. Brisco & Associates.
Aurora Murillo, a Chula Vista resident and rental homeowner, fears the ordinance is too strict on landlords, ultimately forcing landlords to sell their properties and make way for big corporations to gentrify and rent units above the marketplace.
“This ordinance is coming along with many other things … that are affecting my security, my income and also my tenants,” she said. “I’ve been able to have the freedom to say, ‘Ok, these are my rules and I can help people.’ But unfortunately, my fear, and the thing that is scaring me the most, is that I won’t be able to do that anymore.”
There are nearly 79,000 housing units in Chula Vista. Of that figure, more than 33,100 are rentals, according to the city’s 2019 housing stock data. Most of those rental units, or about 16,100, are apartments with 10 or more units and an estimated 6,400 are single-family detached homes.
When drafting the ordinance, the city did not have readily available data from over the past two years to track trends related to evictions and other landlord/tenant issues, due to the pandemic and changes in its contract with housing nonprofit CSA San Diego, according to the city. Last month, the council renewed its contract with the organization for two years at $80,000 so that they could collect data and information about tenant needs.
City staff said its COVID-19 rental assistance program did offer some data on recent tenant needs. As of last month, more than 7,300 people had applied and about 6,100 had been processed. Still, without specific data, the city said it was difficult to assess the potential impacts the ordinance could have on smaller landlords or city resources.
Council members will also consider implementing an eviction ban to protect against no-fault causes. That moratorium would resemble San Diego’s ban, which takes effect May 22 and expires Sept. 30.