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Three tenant protection bills could shake things up in Sacramento this year.

Democratic Assemblymembers David Chiu (San Francisco), Richard Bloom (Santa Monica), and Rob Bonta (Oakland), have become the “Tenant Triumvirate” in Sacramento, three legislators known for proposing ambitious statewide tenant protections. Their efforts have garnered backlash from real estate interest groups, as well as the criticism of outspoken progressive advocacy groups who argue the state legislature hasn’t done enough.

The trio is bouncing back with three tenant protection bills in this year’s legislative session.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced a “just cause” evictions bill that would take the eviction controls that protect tenants in San Francisco, and extend them across California.

“Just cause” eviction controls require landlords to have a valid reason and meet a specific threshold (i.e. failure to pay rent) before they are able to evict a tenant. In San Francisco, landlords are not able to evict a tenant without cause unless they agree to take the building off the rental market for a number of years. (The bill has not established a number of years yet.)

"More and more Californians are being unjustly evicted from their homes," said Assemblymember Bonta. "As California continues to endure this housing crisis, statewide Just Cause legislation is another necessary ingredient to protect tenants and keep a safe roof over their heads. The history, culture, and character of our communities suffer when residents are forced to move from home to home. A statewide Just Cause law will ensure landlords are only evicting tenants for fair reasons. We must fight to protect our neighbors and to preserve the integrity of our communities."

The California Apartment Association is not pleased with the proposal. “These limitations can make it difficult — if not impossible — to evict bad tenants, including those suspected of criminal activity, such as drug-dealing – unless other tenants and witnesses are willing to testify at trial,” a press release reads.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom introduced AB 2364, which will extend the notice time that landlords must give tenants when they evict them using the Ellis Act. Reforming or repealing the Ellis Act has been a progressive white whale in Sacramento virtually since it was passed. Former State Senator Mark Leno, who is now running for Mayor of San Francisco, was the last to introduce such a proposal. 

Under AB 2364, landlords must now give all tenants one year notice before the eviction.

Under the current law, most tenants only get 4 months notice. Seniors and people with disabilities get one year notice.

The California Apartment Association was also critical of this bill, stating in part: “Before the Ellis Act was passed in 1985, rent-controlled cities — Santa Monica in particular — forced landlords to stay in business, even if they were losing money or experiencing other hardships.”

Alex Lantsberg, a landlord in the Bayview district and spokesperson for Small Property Owners for Reasonable Controls (SPORC), issued a statement praising the three bills and condemning the CAA: “The fact of the matter is that those of us lucky enough to own property in this state have never had it so good. Between massive rent and asset value growth since the economic collapse on one hand the the protections of Proposition 13 on the other, California's residential property owners are the envy of the nation,” he wrote.

“The proposals by Bloom, Bonta, & Chiu are fair and reasonable and should be embraced by all lawmakers. The playing field is already tilted towards landlords like us. We encourage the Legislature to help level it.”

In recent sessions, the Triumvirate of Bloom, Bonta, and Chiu worked together to fight an unsuccessful two-year battle to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act (AB 1506), which prohibits rent control from applying to single-family homes and new developments. Repealing Costa Hawkins is now gathering signatures to go on the November ballot.

Despite his strong support of AB 1506, Assemblymember David Chiu faced fierce criticism from tenant advocates, who felt that he had not fought for AB 1506 hard enough.

Not one to dwell on losses, Chiu introduced AB 2343, co-authored with Senator Nancy Skinner (D - Berkeley), which gives tenants more time to respond to an eviction, especially for failure to pay rent or breaking a lease. The bill would extend the time tenants have to pay rent or comply with lease terms from 3 days to 10 days. It would also give tenants more time to respond legally to an eviction, from 5 days to 14 days.

“This bill would make common-sense changes to eviction procedures to ensure tenants’ due process rights are respected, landlords are able to resolve issues without the cost and delay of a court case, and to make the eviction process more efficient for all parties,” said Alexander “Sasha” Harnden, policy advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, a co-sponsor of AB 2343.

AB 2343 may prove to be one of the largest landlord-tenant fights in Sacramento this year.

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