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Council Approves Modifications to Tenant Protection Ordinance

Changes recommended to ‘provide better protection’ to Pasadena renters

Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 | 5:28 am
 
In 2015, Melissa Hicks, expelled from Fuller Theological Seminary apartments, testified she found out to her chagrin that Pasadena’s Tenant Protection Ordinance didn't protect her. Pasadena's City Council voted to amend the ordinance on April 3, 2017

 

Reacting in part to a disturbing series of events in 2014 following the sale of three dorm apartment buildings by Fuller Theological Seminary to Carmel Partners, Inc. after which students and faculty were literally locked out of their apartments — the full City Council Monday evening unanimously approved a series of six modifications to the City’s Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO).

Following a March 21 meeting of the Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committee, which recommended the changes, City staff contacted representatives of Fuller Theological Seminary, Caltech, and William Carey International University the following day. Fuller Theological Seminary then provided comments which City staff considered in developing the proposed modifications.

The existing Tenant Protection Ordinance has been in effect in the city for 13 years,  Housing Director Bill Huang told the Council, and has paid out a total of $284,00 in relocation and moving payment to to 91 tenants.

“But,” said Huang, “there are some aspects to the ordinance that we would like to tighten in order to provide better protection to renters here in Pasadena.”

The Pasadena Municipal Code requires landlords to pay tenants in good standing, whose household income does not exceed 140% of the median income for Los Angeles County, a Relocation Allowance and a Moving Expense Allowance if the tenant is required to vacate due to demolition of the unit, government order, or permanent removal of the unit from the rental market.

According to the Housing Department staff report, the amount of Relocation Allowance is equivalent to two times the amount of the current Fair Market Rent for the Los Angeles – Long Beach metropolitan area, for a rental unit of similar size to the unit being vacated. The current Relocation Allowance ranges from $1,894 for a studio unit, to $4,454 for a four-bedroom unit.

The Moving Expense Allowance is currently $3,611 for households with members who are seniors, disabled, or minor dependents, and $1,200 for all other households.

City staff was originally directed to review the TPO at a September 28, 2015 meeting of the City Council, and to focus specifically on concerns regarding the Relocation Allowance provided to tenants who are displaced due to demolition, government order to vacate, or permanent removal of a unit from the rental market, and to report back to the Committee.

The Committee recommended the elimination of an exemption which read, “The requirements set forth in this chapter shall not apply to any tenant whose tenancy is terminated pursuant to a lawful notice to terminate tenancy pursuant to state law.”

According to the staff report, a landlord that intends to demolish a unit or permanently remove a unit from the rental market would be exempt from having to pay relocation and moving expense allowances to a tenant in good standing as long as the tenancy were terminated in accordance with state law.

The City Council eventually approved six recommended modifications to the Ordinance:

  • To remove in its entirety the provision in sub-section A of Section 9.75.040 which states: “The requirements set forth in this chapter shall not apply to any tenant whose tenancy is terminated pursuant to a lawful notice to terminate tenancy pursuant to state law.”
  • Lawful termination of tenancy does not exempt a landlord from providing relocation and moving expense allowances to tenants in good standing. If a landlord intends to demolish a unit or permanently remove the unit from the rental housing market, and the landlord vacates the unit by not renewing the lease agreement with a tenant in good standing, the landlord shall be obligated to provide relocation and moving expense allowances to the displaced tenant in good standing.
  • If a tenant eviction occurs for the sole purpose of making a unit available for occupancy by the owner or an owner’s family member, the owner shall be obligated to pay to the displaced tenant(s) an amount of relocation and moving expense allowances that is equal to one-half of the applicable allowances set forth in this chapter.
  • In the case of rental housing owned and provided by educational institutions for students and/or faculty, owner shall pay relocation and moving expense allowances if the tenancy of students or faculty members are terminated by the owner after 365 days of the date on which: a) the student’s enrollment in the institution is discontinued; or b) the faculty member’s employment at the institution is discontinued. In other words, a tenant or faculty member who loses their status will only be eligible for relocation benefits if they are evicted after 365 days from the date of discontinued student or faculty status.
  • Pursuant ·to state law, board and care facilities and other state licensed care facilities are exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
  • In addition, upon the request of the landlord, City, or City consultant (e.g., the Housing Rights Center), tenant shall provide the following documentation to determine eligibility for relocation arid moving expense allowances: a signed certification of household members and household income on a form acceptable to the City; and documentation of income , such as paystubs, public benefits statements, employer verification, any other documentation as may be reasonably requested by the landlord, City, or City consultant.

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