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Newsom signs law to bolster eviction protections for renters

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Saturday to bolster eviction protections for renters and close a loophole in an existing law that has allowed landlords to circumvent the state’s rent cap.

The move updates a 2019 landmark law that created rules around evictions and establishing a rent cap at 5% plus the inflation rate, with a 10% maximum.

Under the 2019 law, landlords can evict tenants for “at fault” or “no fault” reasons. “At fault” reasons include failure to pay rent on time. Under “no fault” rules, landlords can terminate leases by saying they need to move into units, make repairs or take the units off the rental market.

Renters’ advocates said some landlords have exploited the “no fault” evictions to get around the state’s rent cap. They pointed to a case in Santa Clara County in which a landlord evicted tenants, citing the need to move in relatives, but then re-listed the units at nearly double the price.

Under the new law, landlords moving into their units or renting to family also must identify the people moving in. In addition, the rental must be occupied within three months of eviction and they must live in the unit for at least a year. Those who evict tenants to renovate properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices.

Landlords who do not follow through will have to allow evicted tenants to move back under the original lease terms.

The law, which was authored by Democratic state Sen. María Elena Durazo, also allows the attorney general, local government and renters to sue landlords for wrongful evictions and illegal rent increases.

Proponents said they have worked with several local governments to tighten the loophole, but the new law will ensure landlords throughout the state can no longer abuse the system.

“Every city and county in the state shouldn’t have to pass their own ordinance to close these loopholes,” said Suzie Dershowitz, a representative of Public Advocates. The group sponsored the legislation.

The bill faced fierce backlash earlier this year from powerful landlord groups, who said the changes went too far and successfully pressured lawmakers to eliminate a provision that sought to reduce the state’s rent cap to 5%.

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