40 Years of Rent Control in Santa Monica!

Contributors:  Anastasia Foster, Rent Control Board member and Jennifer Kennedy, SMRR Coordinator

Forty and fabulous! That’s how we feel about Santa Monica’s Rent Control Charter which was voted into law on April 10th, 1979. Four decades later, Santa Monica’s rent control laws are still going strong! Here is a timeline of some of our community’s past triumphs and our ongoing successes:

April 10, 1979:  Santa Monica voters amended the City Charter to enact rent control and eviction protections on existing residential rentals in the City. The law provides rent level control and eviction protections. Requires owners to maintain their buildings and ensures that owners will receive a fair return.

June 1979:  Five Rent Control Board members elected from a slate of 64 candidates.

1986:  State Legislature passed the Ellis Act allowing owners to go out of the rental business. 2,222 units have been Ellis’d. SMRR leaders went to Sacramento to oppose the bill and while it couldn’t be stopped, SMRR secured vital tenant protections.

1994:  The Northridge Earthquake struck, and in Santa Monica 2,200 units were declared uninhabitable, thousands more damaged. Within ten days, the City and Rent Board adopted regulations incentivizing repair of controlled units, allowing displaced tenants the right to return, but also allowing some retrofitting costs to be passed through to tenants. Only 300
units demolished.

1995:  Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act passed by State Legislature. The Act allows market increases upon vacancy. SMRR successfully lobbies for delay of full implementation. SMRR and Rent Board work with City Council to adopt a tenant anti-harassment ordinance.  This law protects tenants against owners who take actions to “encourage” tenants in long-term rent controlled units to leave so the unit can be re-rented at market rate.

1999:  Rent Control law is amended specifying that evictions for a lease violation require the violation to be material and substantial. The Rent Board passed regulations allowing tenants to petition for rent reductions for construction-related impacts. City Council adopts Tenant Relocation Plans for any units to be made uninhabitable by construction work.

2002:  Rent Board prohibits eviction of tenant’s spouse, children, or domestic partner if  tenant vacates. The number of occupants in a unit must continue to be allowed, or the unit is subject to a rent reduction. 

2004:  To prevent a statewide law, Rent Board adopts the Tenant Not in Occupancy regulation to allow for one-time rent increases to market-rate for tenants who do not use the unit as their domicile. The Planning Commission and Rent Board provide permanent protection to bootleg units when they meet habitability standards.

2009:  The Rent Board adopts regulation clarifying that smoking violations are not a just-cause for eviction.

2010: Measure RR: Extends eviction protections to non rent-controlled units. Requires owners to give tenants a reasonable written warning to correct lease violations before an eviction notice. Prohibits landlord from evicting a terminally ill tenant for owner occupancy, or a tenant who has lived there five years and is a senior or disabled. 

2013:  Rent Board adopts regulation so tenants can enter separate agreements to allow electric vehicle charging.

2014:  Limits the amount of the annual fee that the owner may pass through to the tenant to half. 

2015:  Rent Board adopts regulations requiring owners to annually certify their presence for an owner-occupancy exemption.  The City Council and Rent Board adopt rules regarding buyout agreements and sharing of information on buyout amounts by city area & unit size.

2017:  Landlords must provide information about the rent control rules to all new tenants at move in, and every year thereafter.  

2018:  Rent Board phases out bond related property-tax-related surcharges over time. Owners may not pass through surcharges to any new tenant. New owners may not pass through surcharges. Amount that can be passed though to tenants is strictly limited. 

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