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Putting a Price on Temporary Digs

By Lookout Staff

August 10 -- A year after Santa Monica officials took up the issue, the City Council Tuesday is expected to finally put a price on how much landlords must pay to house and feed tenants, and their pets, who are temporarily relocated.

After researching prices at “modest” hotels -- such as Best Western, Comfort Inn, Days Inn and Travelodge -- City staff is recommended requiring landlords to provide tenants with $135 a day for housing.

The proposed law also requires landlords to give each individual displaced $25 a day for meals, compared to Santa Monica City and State employees, who have per diem meal allowances that range between $34 and $45 per day.

According to staff, “$25 per day is reasonable in the context of landlord-paid relocation benefits, in part since unrelocated tenants have substantial meal expenses anyway and the benefit by definition represents a partial compensation.”

Households also would be given $1 a day for laundry, if tenants have their own laundry facilities in the unit.

Humans aren’t the only ones assured a place to stay. If the tenant cannot bring along a pet, landlords would pay $45 a day to place dogs in Santa Monica’s only kennel, and $25 a day for cats.

“A pet allowance should be payable only to those tenants who actually board their pets and do not utilize alternate, cost-free pet accommodations during the relocation,” according to the staff report.

“For example, if the tenant stays at a hotel that accepts pets, or if the tenant stays with relatives who allow the pet, the benefit would not be payable,” staff said.

The new law governs temporary relocation mandated by a code compliance order for no longer than 30 days, according to the staff report. The Code exempts relocations due to earthquakes and natural disasters.

The flat-fees would not apply in relocations that last longer than 30 days, in which case,
the relocation fees are still determined under current City guidelines that allow tenants and landlords to find an apartment or other housing, either comparable, or better, than the vacated unit.

Unlike laws in Berkeley or West Hollywood, the proposed ordinance does not limit the amount of time that a landlord has to pay for temporary housing, according to staff.

The ordinance also explicitly denies benefits to “a tenant who causes or substantially contributes to the condition requiring the order to vacate,” and establishes an appeals process for landlords.

The ordinance comes after a case reported in The Lookout two years ago that involved nearly $50,000 in relocation fees – almost half fronted by the City -- for a family being temporarily housed at a Travel Lodge on Pico Boulevard. ("Family Fights to Stay Off Streets, as Relocation Costs Soar," and "Family Still Struggles as City Closes Unusual Housing Case.")

Eventually the units the family lived in were declared uninhabitable, and the family was paid a permanent relocation fee, on average, of about $6,500. But not before landlord, Ricco Ross, had paid nearly $25,000 to temporarily relocate the family at the local motel.







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