Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stealthy Amendment to The Rent Ordinance

Some amendments pass while being widely covered in the news, but not this one. It was not even announced in the "What's New" section of the Rent Board. And yet it did pass and will become effective in a couple of weeks, Ordinance 0017-16.
[Update 3-22-16] - The new form is now available for download and the news announcement is published]

This ordinance is a very short piece, but the changes it enacts should not be overlooked; indeed, that is the very danger of unknown changes in legislature, since ignorantia juris non excusat,* an ancient maxim apparently known since Aristotle. If you are like me, and had no idea about the changes coming, you might be interested in this summary below:

Two sections of the Rent Ordinance are affected:

Section 37.3(f) (Costa-Hawkins Vacancy Control) now extends its highly controversial vacancy control provision to keep the rent at the same level for five years from two categories of rental units to the third one: units "[w]here the landlord terminated or did not renew a contract or recorded agreement with a governmental agency that provided for a rent limitation to a qualified tenant," or government-subsidized units, generally known as "Section 8" or "SFHA" tenancies. On definition of "vacancy decontrol" see also CC § 1947.15(i)(2).

Section 37.9(c), second sentence, will be amended, indicating that the multilingual form informing tenants about the Rent Board (currently known as "Form 1007," since its introduction in November 2015) will now include more information, or, perhaps a yet another form will also become a mandatory part of the notice.

The later change in itself is harmless, but the manner of this change's introduction is dangerous. Unsuspecting practitioners, thinking they are in compliance by attaching Form 1007 to their notice, will be surprised to learn their notice is defective, because it did not include this unannounced new form. In this area of law, where almost every turn is strictly enforced and highly technical, slipping-in as major a change as the form, attachable to each eviction notice, is an unnecessary and prejudicial attack on the landlords. It does not have to be done this way.

The former change is another example of municipal regulations encroaching on Federally regulated housing. I am expecting the whole issue of the increased vacancy control under 37.3(f) to be resolved through courts, yet again, and in so doing this new addition will be addressed as well. See, Bullard v. San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization Bd. (2003) 106 Cal. App. 4th 488, for the general discussion and Mak v. City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Bd. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 60, for how narrowly it may be applied by municipal regulations.

Stark v. Super. Court (2011) 52 Cal.4th 368, 396-397.

If you are concerned about your rights and obligations in connection with the lease enforcement or a termination through eviction, make your first step toward taking control over the circumstances, and call my office at (415) 987-7000. I will be glad to assist in guiding you through the jungle. The only thing you can't afford is to stay put and uninformed. My office provides a confidential assessment of your particular scenario, free of charge, and I will share with you the results of the analysis along with my thoughts on available solutions.

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