|TO:||HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL|
|FROM:||BENJAMIN T. REYES II, CITY ATTORNEY|
SECOND READING AND ADOPTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF UNION CITY ADDING CHAPTER 5.50 “RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT RELATIONS” TO THE UNION CITY MUNICIPAL CODE
On March 28, 2017, the City Council introduced the attached Ordinance to add Chapter 5.50 “Residential Landlord and Tenant Relations” to Title 5, of the Municipal Code to:
- Require landlords to provide cause for termination of tenancy; and
- Prohibit landlords from harassing tenants and engaging in other prohibited activities in bad faith, with ulterior motive, or without honest intent; and
- Require landlords to notify tenants of their rights under the proposed ordinance.
Subsequent to that meeting, staff determined that a minor clarification to the Ordinance is necessary in order to allow for the City’s Crime Free Housing Program, operated by the Police Department, to continue operating without disruption and to effectuate the City Council’s intent that the terms of the rental agreement provide cause for termination of tenancy. Staff recommends that the City Council conduct the second reading and adopt the attached Ordinance that would add Chapter 5.50 “Residential Landlord and Tenant Relations” to the Union City Municipal Code.
The City Council first held a study session in May 2016 to address and consider potential rent protection measures and formed a Rent and Tenant Taskforce (“Taskforce”) in July 12, 2016 in order to assist with the consideration of possible tenant protection measures. The Taskforce held multiple public meetings between October 2016 and January 2017.
City staff returned to the City Council with the Taskforce’s recommendations on January 31, 2017. After considering the Taskforce’s recommendations, the City Council directed staff to prepare a Just Cause for Eviction and Anti-Harassment Ordinance.
On March 28, 2017 the City Council introduced, and read by title only, the attached Ordinance.
Effect of Text Amendments
The California Constitution provides the City with authority to use its police power to regulate landlord-tenant relationships, as long as such regulations do not conflict with state law. The proposed text amendments are designed to create stability and security for residential tenants by:
- Requiring landlords to provide cause for termination of tenancy;
- Prohibiting landlords from harassing tenants; and
- Requiring that landlords notify tenants of their rights under the Municipal Code.
The proposed ordinance applies to all residential rental units within the City but excludes traditionally transient type uses including hotels, certain owner-occupied residences, and housing accommodations for nonprofit facilities that provide short term treatment as well as certain housing units owned or regulated by local, State or Federal government agencies.
Cause for Termination of Tenancy
The proposed text amendments prohibit landlords from terminating a tenancy unless certain conditions are met. As a prerequisite to terminating tenancy, a landlord must show that he or she has done all of the following:
- Possesses a valid business license and has a properly registered the rental unit;
- Has provided the tenant with a notice of tenant rights;
- Served a notice of termination stating the permitted basis for termination;
- Has not accepted and will not accept rent or any other consideration in return for the continued use of the rental unit beyond the term of the terminated tenancy in compliance with California Civil Code Sections 1945, 1946 and 1946.1.
After establishing the above, a landlord may only terminate a tenancy for cause pursuant to the proposed ordinance. Examples of such circumstances that establish cause for termination include, but are not limited to:
- Failure of the tenant to pay rent; or
- A violation by the tenant of a material term of the lease; or
- A tenant’s use of the rental unit for illegal activities; or
- The decision of the landlord to remove the unit from the rental market for certain specific reasons.
If the landlord removes the unit from the rental market, the proposed ordinance provides that the tenant has a right to return to the unit if the landlord brings the unit back onto the rental market within a specified period of time.
The proposed ordinance also prohibits landlords from engaging in harassment or certain other activities that disturb a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the unit. Examples of such activities include, but are not limited to:
- Threatening to interrupt or failing to provide any housing services under the rental agreement, including but not limited to, utility services and other amenities and services agreed to by contract;
- Failing to perform repairs or maintenance required by contract or by law;
- Attempting to influence the tenant to vacate the unit by means of fraud, intimidation, or coercion, including but not limited to, threats based on immigration status; and
- Requesting information that violates the tenant(s) right to privacy.
Notice and Enforcement
The proposed ordinance requires landlords to provide tenants with a notice of tenant rights in the three (3) predominant languages spoken in the City. Such notice must be provided to tenants within sixty (60) days of the effective date of the proposed ordinance, whenever entering into or renewing a rental agreement, and when issuing a notice of termination. The City will develop a form notice that landlords can use to satisfy this requirement.
Tenants may enforce their rights under the proposed text amendments by instituting civil proceedings.
Crime Free Housing Program and Minor Clarifying Revision to Text Amendments
The Police Department currently operates a Crime Free Housing Program (the “Program”). The Program is a partnership between the Police Department and property owners and is designed to reduce drugs, gang-related activity, and other criminal conduct in multi-family residential properties.
Participation in the Program by property owners is voluntary but requires that property owners attend a seminar to be instructed on how the program works and other legal issues related to property ownership and management. A central element of the Program is the use of a contractual provision by landlords that provides that criminal conduct is a violation of the rental agreement and provides that certain illegal activity resulting in an arrest is a violation of the rental agreement. This provision applies irrespective of the location of such criminal activity. Participating landlords are notified by the police department in the event of an arrest.
The Ordinance introduced by the City Council on March 28, 2017, provides that grounds for eviction include illegal activity occurring in the residential unit, or a continuing breach of a material term of the agreement after written notice to cease. The Program’s success is partly based on the ability of a landlord to terminate a tenancy upon a tenant’s arrest for certain crimes irrespective of the location of the criminal activity.
A minor clarifying revision to the text amendments has been made to allow the Crime Free Housing Program to continue operating without disruption and to effectuate the City Council’s intent that the terms of the rental agreement govern the grounds for termination of tenancy. Specifically, the text amendments will provide that a landlord has cause to terminate a tenancy where “[t]he tenant has violated a material term of the rental agreement.”
There are no direct fiscal impacts as a result of adopting the attached Ordinance.
Staff recommends that the City Council:
1. Waive reading the full text of the Ordinance, conduct the second reading of the title of the proposed Ordinance, and adopt the Ordinance to add Chapter 5.50 “Residential Landlord and Tenant Relations” of the Union City Municipal Code.
Kristopher J. Kokotaylo, Deputy City Attorney
Benjamin T. Reyes II, City Attorney