The most challenging and problematic aspect of the Santa Rosa’s entire rent control discussion is its corollary known as “Just Cause Eviction.” A more appropriate name for this process is actually “Good Reason for Notice to Vacate.” The reasoning behind Just Cause Eviction presumes that, as a landlord, you must have a specific and allowable reason for why you’d require a tenant to leave. It’s a protection put into place so that a landlord cannot easily remove a tenant who is living in a rent controlled property. Imagine that, after living in a rent-controlled unit for 10 years, that tenant’s rent might conceivably be 40 percent or more below market rent. Just cause eviction protects tenants from landlords who might try to remove them, in order to “reset” the rent to market value for a new tenant. The complication is that Just Cause Eviction has a more wide-ranging impact, beyond simply those units affected by Costa Hawkins. While Rent Control only affects a small subsection of properties in the rental inventory (multiunit buildings built before 1995), Just Cause Eviction, in most instances that it’s been implemented, affects ALL rental properties. You could have conceivably built a single-family home last year, and that property is still bound to the Just Cause Eviction restrictions.
Examples of Just Cause Eviction
Depending on how Santa Rosa writes the ordinance, there will be a short list of reasons that can be used as justification for a required tenant move-out. Just Cause Evictions could potentially be limited to:
- A tenant repeatedly failing to pay rent.
- A tenant is substantially violating the terms of the rental contract.
- An offer of lease renewal was made to the tenant, but the tenant refused.
- The tenant is causing damage to the property.
- The tenant is being disorderly and disruptive to adjacent neighbors or others in the community.
- The tenant is using the property for illegal purposes; drugs or improper sublets (such as AirBnb).
- A tenant is denying access to the landlord.
The Need for Documentation and Proof
This is the challenge: because of the stakes involved, you need to be prepared to prove any allegations used as a basis for tenant removal. If (or more accurately, when) this ordinance goes into effect, you will have to conclusively and objectively prove the violations that allegedly took place. You can’t simply say you’re getting complaints from neighbors – you would need have those neighbors be prepared to testify. You would have to gather witnesses, compile evidence, and document EVERYTHING. You would – you will – find yourself having to compile a convincing “burden of proof” to remove a bad tenant.
Taking Your Property off the Rental Market
There will likely be provisions that would allow you to take the property off the rental market. You could conceivably remove your tenant if you decide to sell, move into the home yourself, or allow a family member to move in. However, the list of reasons – even if you’re not trying to prove tenant misbehavior – is certain to be a very limited. In other words, to substantial measure, tenants leave when THEY decide to, not when it’s most beneficial for you. Potentially, that means that your tenants have what constitutes a “life estate” to the property. The details of Santa Rosa’s rent control dilemma – what is already known and what is likely – are complicated, and it reflects a housing market in transition.
If you have questions on just cause eviction, rent control, or anything else pertaining to property management, please contact us at DeDe’s Rentals.