California’s Renters’ Right to Redemption Bill Moves Forward

From the California Progress Report.

By Dean Preston

Imagine that you pay your rent faithfully for years and then one month something extraordinary happens and you need to pay late.  That’s exactly what recently happened to a Los Angeles tenant named Jorge, a former Marine and automotive tech who lived in his rent-controlled apartment for thirteen years with his wife and three children paying rent timely each month. In February, the family was not able to pay the rent until the 10th of the month, and conscientiously advised the landlord of the situation.

The landlord responded with a three-day notice to pay or quit and immediately filed an eviction action, refusing to accept this one-time late payment of rent. The tenants now have an eviction on their record and will likely become homeless. When the judge at trial noted that the landlord’s actions were extremely harsh, the landlord’s lawyer replied, “that is what the law permits.”

Unfortunately, the landlord’s lawyer is right.  Under California law, tenants have no right to pay after the expiration of a three-day pay or quit notice to maintain their tenancy. Tenants who are just four days late on rent can be thrown out of their homes notwithstanding their willingness to pay rent, even if they have lived there for years.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D- San Francisco) has authored AB 265 to address such unfair evictions.  His bill cleared a major hurdle last week when it passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee despite an intensive lobbying effort by landlord groups.  The bill would provide tenants being evicted for nonpayment the right to pay the rent due and specified costs during eviction proceedings in order to “redeem” the tenancy and prevent eviction.  Similar rights exist in over a dozen states, but not in California.

“With the second highest rents in the nation, California tenants are suffering in the current economy,” noted Ammiano.  “Despite their best efforts, some tenants cannot pay the rent on time, but with the help of family, friends or nonprofit rental assistance programs are able to come up with the money soon after it is due. These tenants should be protected from eviction.”

A right to redemption already exists under California law for property owners (including landlords) who default on mortgage payments. A landlord who fails to make mortgage payments that are due has months in which to pay up and retain their rights to the property, but a tenant has a mere three-day period in which to pay any and all rent due or face eviction.

The Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to move the bill to the full Assembly for a vote. Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) broke with her fellow Democrats on the Committee to oppose the bill.

AB 265 will prevent unnecessary and unfair evictions without creating any hardship for landlords.  The bill deserves broad support.


Dean Preston is the Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights.  Tenants Together is the sponsor of AB 265.  For more information about Tenants Together, visit www.TenantsTogether.org.

Comments

7 Responses to “California’s Renters’ Right to Redemption Bill Moves Forward”
  1. Michael R. Kesti says:

    If granted by legislation, renter redemption is a privilege rather than a right.

  2. depelton says:

    Thanks, Michael.

    Generally, how would you distinguish a right compared to a privilege?

    It seems to me that it becomes a right by definition at the moment it is enacted in law.

  3. depelton says:

    How about other consumer-based laws such as the “right of redemption” in most mortgage contracts on owner-occupied homes, or the “right of rescission” in consumer loan contracts? The law labels these as “rights.”

  4. Michael R. Kesti says:

    Rights are, to quote The Declaration of Independence, endowed by our creator. (I don’t care whether one considers deities, mothers, or anything else to be their creators. Reproduction of life is a creative process that requires a creator!) As such, rights require no granting by legislation and may be infringed but not rescinded. Privileges, on the other hand, are granted by legislation and can therefore be rescinded by legislation.

    Our Constitution’s Bill of Rights is consistent with these definitions in that, despite widespread misunderstanding, it does not grant rights but instead enumerates them and forbids legislation that would rescind them.

    I find the laws you mentioned (“right of redemption” and “right of rescission”) to be improperly labeled. It should be no surprise to discover that our legislators are capable of misrepresentation.

  5. Don Pelton says:

    Thanks, Michael.

    I find it perfectly sensible that some rights are, as the Declaration of Independence says, “inalienable,” while others (e.g.,the rights of rescission and redemption) are created by legislative process.

    So, while we’ll just have to agree to disagree, your stimulating comments are always welcome.

    Don.

  6. bob says:

    Its funny people think we owners want to evict residents… WE DON”T! When someone is evicted the owner never gets his back rent! I have been in this business for 30 years. I always try to keep the residents and work out payments so that in time I will not have a loss and in time I will receive my back rent. THE ONLY TIME I WANT TO EVICT A RESIDENT, WHICH IS RARE, IS WHEN THE RESIDENT IS A PROBLEM TO OTHER RESIDENTS. Most people are afraid to be witnesses on a problem resident’s eviction. And no one wants to live next to someone while they are being evicted. Thank G-d that the bad apples, since they are out of control, are usually last with their rent. YOU SEE, ALL AN OWNER WANTS TO DO IS COLLECT THE RENT AND KEEP HIS RESIDENTS HAPPY! Having people move always costs so much money! Any experienced owner knows being kind to a resident is GOOD BUSINESS! Don’t take ways the only way we have to get rid of the few bad apples!!! What you are creating is real pain is for the five or six families that live near the bad apple. Yes there are some people who just can’t afford to pay their rent. Maybe they lost their job or had a sickness. We try to work with these people, and in a few cases they do get evicted. And that is a shame… However, that not the case in most the majority of the time. Most of the time people make workouts with us and yes, in time make-up their back balances. You see most people are honest and caring, (and that includes owners of buildings.)

  7. depelton says:

    Thanks, Bob.

    We were also landlords for more than twenty years, and we were good landlords like you, always more interested in finding good tenants than in making a fortune. We were always happy to break even if our tenants took good care of our property.

    But … I still support a law that would prevent the most egregious abuses by landlords.

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