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By Jorge Casuso

October 7, 2020 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to amend a new rental law that requires residential leases to be at least a year and that the units be unfurnished.

The proposed changes come after Santa Monica residents objected that the law approved on August 25 fails to take into account numerous scenarios, according to staff.

They include furnished homes temporarily rented by owners who plan to be absent for an extended period of time or units rented to students who only want to rent during the school year or to tenants displaced by emergency repairs.

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"Due to the far-reaching applicability of the ordinance, public correspondence was received in the wake of the ordinance’s passage requesting consideration for a variety of scenarios," staff wrote in their report to the Council.

After reviewing the "exemption scenarios," the City Attorney's office chose to propose general exemptions for "medium-term" housing.

Staff noted that "it is challenging to carve out exceptions for different users without creating inadvertent loopholes thereby undermining Council’s objective to curtail temporary leasing activity."

Under the proposed exemptions, an owner-occupied unit can be rented for less than one year "if the primary resident who rents the unit intends to return at the end of the lease to again occupy the residence as his or her primary residence."

The unit could be rented furnished and the tenant would not be required to use and occupy the unit as their primary residence.

"This would allow for reasonable use of single-unit dwellings and condominiums without impacting residential character and use, availability of permanent rental housing stock, and be responsive to a majority of scenarios that have been identified in public input," staff said.

The proposed amendments would also exempt Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), commonly known as "granny flats," and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units on parcels with single-unit dwellings occupied by the owner.

"This exemption would not place a limitation on the number of times a year the ADU or JADU could be rented but would require that the owner of the property live on site for the duration of the lease," staff said.

The units would have to be rented for a term of more than 30 days but less than one year, staff said.

The proposed changes also exempt units rented to tenants displaced from their units under tenant relocation provisions in the municipal code.

Under the proposed changes, students can show the rental housing is their primary residence by providing proof of payment of resident tuition to a California public institution of higher education.

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