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California eviction protection law falters

AB 1481 would have required just cause for evictions, but fell short of its deadline for final Assembly vote

An eviction notice nailed to a boarded-up door. Photo by Shutterstock.

A proposed law by Bay Area legislators that would have provided broad protections from eviction for California renters failed to make it out of the State Assembly this week.

Friday is the final deadline for a possible vote on Assembly Bill 1481, dubbed the “tenancy termination: just cause” act. With no hearing scheduled today, the legislation is likely finished.

Concord-based Assemblymember Tim Grayson and Alameda Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced the measure in March, hoping to extend the same eviction protections that cover renters in cities like San Francisco to the rest of the state.

The bill text reads, in part:

This bill would, with certain exceptions, prohibit a lessor of residential property from terminating the lease without just cause, as defined, stated in the written notice to terminate.

This bill would require, for curable violations, that the lessor give a notice of violation and an opportunity to cure the violation prior to issuing the notice of termination.

This bill would require, for no-fault just cause terminations, as specified, that the lessor assist certain lessees to relocate, regardless of the lessee’s income, by providing a direct payment per a specified formula.

The bill defined “just cause” as “failure to pay rent, substantial breach of a material term of the rental agreement, [...] refusal, by the tenant to sign a new lease that is identical to the previous lease, after the previous lease expired, illegal conduct,” damage to the unit, and similar complaints.

According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, San Francisco employs a similar definition of the term.

May 31 is the deadline for California Assembly bills to clear a floor vote. AB 1481 passed a committee vote on a 7-3 margin in April, but stalled trying to gain momentum for passage by the larger body.

It’s possible that one of the bill’s authors could pick up AB 1481 again in 2020. However, legislation that doesn’t go the distance the first time often evaporates as lawmakers move on to new prospects.

Conceding that the bill would not move forward this year, Grayson said via Twitter that the proposal “moved a serious conversation on evictions forward” and promised to pursue the issue through other means.

Bonta said, “This isn’t the end of our journey for just cause.”

He similarly hinted at future assays.

Throughout the year, Grayson made pains to link his bill to AB 1482, the anti-rent gouging bill authored by SF’s Supervisor David Chiu. AB 1482 passed the Assembly this week.

In San Francisco, eviction notices—which are distinct from successful evictions—were on the decline in recent years. According to the SF Rent Board, the number of notices served has dropped three years in a row, with the most recent annual tally recording 1,592 notices in the city between March of 2018 and February of 2019.