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A reprieve for renters

on October 21, 2009

A new city ordinance may spell relief for renters whose homes have been foreclosed after their landlords fell behind on their mortgage payments.

California law allows property owners to issue 60-day eviction notices on foreclosed homes, but under the new ordinance, tenants living in foreclosed properties could only be evicted under 12 specific circumstances, said City Attorney Randy Riddle.

“It’s kind of like the San Francisco rent control ordinance except it doesn’t control rent, it just controls evictions,” Riddle told Richmond Confidential.

But unlike the protections afforded to San Francisco renters, which limit evictions under any conditions, the new ordinance would only apply to people living in foreclosed homes.

The city council had approved a similar ordinance in June before discovering that the original language didn’t comply with state law, said Riddle. The new ordinance was approved around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday with little discussion after a resident pulled the proposal off the consent calendar.

The new ordinance says that Richmond renters living in foreclosed homes could only be evicted under the following circumstances:

  1. Failure to pay rent.
  2. Allowing additional occupants beyond the number allowed by the lease (excluding dependent children).
  3. Acting as a nuisance or causing “substantial damage” to the property.
  4. Using the rental unit for any illegal purpose.
  5. Failure to submit a written extension more than 30 days after a rental agreement has expired.
  6. Refusing to allow the landlord access to the rental.
  7. If only a subtenant and no master-tenant is in possession of the property at the end of a lease or after a property is sold.
  8. To allow a new manager or limited members of the landlord’s family to move into the rental.
  9. To permanently take the property off the rental market.
  10. If the landlord wants to demolish the property or make major repairs.
  11. To comply with a government order to vacate the property.
  12. If the tenant no longer qualifies to live in a rental unit under government-regulations.

Landlords who evict their tenants under reasons 8, 9, 10 and 11 would be required to pay two times the monthly rent plus an additional $1,000 in relocation fees, according to the ordinance.

While the ordinance will not go into effect for another 30 days, the June ordinance will remain in place until the new regulations take effect, Riddle said.

Riddle said that the old ordinance had to be revised because it called for a seven-day notice period whereas California law stipulates a three-day period. The June ordinance also required that a bank notify the tenants when it forecloses on a property, but the language was removed from the new ordinance after it prompted a bank to sue. The lawsuit is still pending, but the city decided to avoid further litigation by simplifying the ordinance, he said.

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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