Rent Control in Long Beach

Long Beach took another step on Tuesday toward requiring landlords to pay tenants if they’re required to move through no fault of their own — including by a 10% or higher rent increase.

The City Council voted 6-3 to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which the panel directed staff to create last month. Although the vote won a majority of the council’s approval, all of its members agreed that significant changes need to be made before it’s officially implemented.

The ordinance, which is set to go into effect on Aug. 1, must be approved by the council once more at its June 11 meeting.

The proposed law, as it currently stands, requires:

Landlords of properties with four units or more to pay tenants a certain amount, based on unit size, if they raise rents more than 10% in a year or if they require tenants to move, including to rehabilitate a unit. The payments would only be required for tenants in good standing who have lived in a unit for more than a year. The amount, which would be updated periodically, would be $2,706 for a studio; $3,235 for a one-bedroom; $4,185 for a two-bedroom; and $4,500 for a unit with three bedrooms or more.

Landlords to inform tenants that they have the option to report timely payment of rent to credit agencies to boost credit scores.

Landlords to provide renters with a city-provided information sheet on their rights to tenant-relocation assistance.

Meanwhile, landlords are exempt if they:

Only own one four-unit property; live in a unit that’s in the same building as the tenant; and require tenants to vacate so an immediate family member can occupy the unit.

The ordinance also excludes all buildings that received a certificate of occupancy after Feb. 1, 1995, in an attempt to allay any concerns about potentially violating the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which bars cities from capping rents on properties built after that date.

But activists in favor of both tenants and landlords showed up in force to Tuesday’s meeting, asking for the council to make adjustments to the ordinance — or simply to quash it altogether.

Those who were broadly in favor of the law said it needed a few tweaks to be as effective as possible.

“If anything, we need to be working toward a stronger policy that will apply to more renters,” said Christine Petit, a member of Long Beach Forward.

Those suggestions included requiring landlords to pay tenants a lump sum before they vacated, so the money would be available to find a new place; not requiring tenants to inform their landlords if they intend to stay in the unit; and protecting tenants against eviction if a landlord does not inform them of their right to relocation assistance.

Landlords, meanwhile, said the proposal would be overly burdensome and could wind up increasing rental rates in Long Beach because they would feel pressured to keep up with the market without triggering relocation payments.

“I object to any kind of renter relocation fees,” longtime landlord Wendy Henning said, “and I also object to any restrictions that the council has put on rents for us — because that will make us raise rents every year to our tenants, which we don’t want to do.”

The members who approved moving forward said they would like to see the changes that tenants rights groups suggested to be included in the ordinance before it goes into effect. That would likely require approving the law at the panel’s June 11 meeting, and voting on changes after that point — but before the ordinance’s Aug. 1 kickoff.

The dissenting members of the council also said they wanted to see changes. Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw said he wanted all four-unit properties to be exempt, while Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said she thought landlords should have the option of providing 180-day notices to tenants in good standing in lieu of paying a fee.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said she would be amenable to a number of changes, but she did not see why the council had to rush and approve the ordinance now — particularly because waiting to work out those details before approving the ordinance would not impact the Aug. 1 implementation date.

“It’s not where we want it to be,” Price said. “So I’m not sure why we would vote on an ordinance that we’re all saying is not where it needs to be.”

Some council members implied that the upcoming June 4 state Senate election — in which First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez is considered the frontrunner — was the reason for the urgency.

“I just wanted to address the elephant in the room,” Eighth District Councilman Al Austin said. “Congratulations in advance to Councilmember Gonzalez.”

After verifying that Gonzalez would still be present to vote at the council’s June 11 meeting, Austin said he would support moving ahead on the item in any way possible.

“I will be here on the 11th,” Gonzalez said. “But I would like to move this forward today.”

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