It finally happened.
After living at a less than 380-square-foot Spanish-style studio apartment on a month-to-month lease for two years, I received a notice attached to my door that my rent was being raised effective Sept. 1.
And I'm not the only one.
In June, the Long Beach City Council approved the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, which requires that landlords pay a relocation fee to tenants who are forced to move out of their current dwelling due to raised rent that renders tenants unable to sustain their living situation.
The payouts include $2,706 for a studio, $3,325 for a one bedroom, $4,185 for a two bedroom and $4,500 for three or more bedroom rentals (the payouts will be updated annually depending on how the housing market might change, but currently it won't exceed $4,500). Those payouts should be just enough to cover a deposit and some moving expenses. But there are exceptions.
Tenants who violate their leases, like getting behind on rent, won't qualify for Tenant Relocation Assistance, even if their rent is raised more than 10% in a 12-month period. Another exception is made for landlords who own only one building with four occupiable units, or if the landlord uses the building as his primary residence. Restricted-income units (like section 8) and units built after Feb. 1, 1995, also are exempt from paying out relocation assistance, even if the rent is raised more than 10%.
And although approved in June, the ordinance did not go into effect until Aug. 1. That gap gave landlords enough time to serve rent raises in July, avoiding the relocation fees and leaving tenants to pay up and stay, or pay up and then put in a notice to move.
I received my notice on Aug. 2, so it would appear that I could take the extra money from the payout and move if I wanted to, right? Unfortunately thats's not an option for me.
One requirement to qualify for the payout is that the landlord must raise the rent by 10% or more within a 12-month period. My landlord raised my rent by just under 10%. Now, with a 9.8% raise in my rent due Sept. 1, my only option is to pay up. I can always choose to put in my notice to move, but I won't get any money for relocation.
And that's just the way it is, according to Long Beach's Development Services Department’s Housing & Neighborhood Services Bureau.
"The rent increase trigger for relocation assistance is a rent increase of 10% or more in any 12-consecutive-month period, so a landlord can raise the rent by 9.9% in any 12-consecutive-month period without having to pay relocation benefits," Richard De La Torre, a city community information officer, said.
On the surface, it appears that at the very least the city has finally approved some kind of rent control — a cap of 10% per year — but that isn't exactly right either.
Prior to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, the rules for raising the rent were still the same, just without a payout: If the rent was being raised 10% or less, landlords will issue a 30-day notice. If it's raised 10% or more, a 60-day notice is issued.
The ordinance just adds an avoidable fee if landlords disregard just 0.1%. For example, if a tenant is already paying $1,000 a month for rent, that means a rent hike of just $99 per month instead of $100 can be legally issued to the tenant.
If served with a rent raise notice that is more than 10%, tenants have 14 days from their notice date to inform the landlord that they will be moving out.
If the tenant informs the landlord that they will be leaving, the landlord will then have 24 days to pay half of the rental assistance payment. The other half will be paid to the tenant within five days after the tenant moves.
The actual move out date will depend on both the tenant and landlord, De La Torre confirmed.
Termination of Tenancy
Raising the rent more than 10% is not the only way to receive a rental assistance payment.
If a landlord terminates the tenancy through no fault of their renter — say to rehabilitate the building — then they have to provide the tenant with a 60-day notice to vacate (30 days notice if the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year). That also means the tenant will qualify for the rental assistance payment.
For more information about the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, go to longbeach.gov/lbds/hn/tenant-assistance-policies.
People can sign up to receive email updates about the ordinance, as well as other Long Beach programs, at longbeach.gov/linklb.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.