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Santa Monica Landlords Could Be Required to Provide Rent-Control Information Sheet  

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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 19, 2017 -- Rent Control Board members say Santa Monica tenants need more information about their rights and want to make it a requirement that they get this information upon signing a lease and annually through the mail.

The board discussed at its meeting last Thursday how to provide that information to tenants.

They determined the best option was to require landlords to provide an information sheet during the lease signing and to include it in one of the three mailings the rent board sends out each year (two newsletters and a summer mailing).

Two landlord attorneys told the board they opposed this plan.

“We have to recognize things have changed since 1979,” said landlord attorney Thomas Nitti, who said this new requirement raised free-speech issues.

He continued, “We have an Internet now. That is the way of communicating. Generating all this additional paper is bad for the environment when we’re trying to cut down on the amount of paper.”

Board members said they did not agree there were any free-speech issues involved.

Commissioner Todd Flora added, “Anybody who fights wanting there to be more honest, good information out there, I’m curious about their motivation.”

The rent board charter actually makes it a requirement that a brochure be produced explaining tenants’ rights.

Board staff says the brochure requirement is now satisfied by the existence of a website.

Board members said many tenants might not use the Internet, although nobody suggested a return to the brochure policy -- considering the one-page sheet to be a sufficient compromise.

The idea of the information sheet came from Commissioner Anastasia Foster, who said in October that when she had moved to Santa Monica several years ago from Chicago, she was not aware of many of her rights for a long time after signing a lease (“New Santa Monica Tenants Should Receive Official Notice of Their Rights, Rent Commissioner Says,” October 14, 2016).

Also at the meeting last week, which was the first of 2017, Caroline Torosis was installed as the board’s newest member. The attorney was the top vote-getter among four candidates in the November election.

Foster, who placed second in the election, was also installed for her first full term. She was appointed to the board last year after the resignation of Ilse Rosenstein (“Santa Monica Rent Board Picks New Commissioner,” February 12, 2016).

Nicole Phillis ended her one year as board chair. Steve Duron, who was elected to the board in 2014, replaced Phillis at the helm by a unanimous decision. Foster is the new vice chair.

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