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LETTERS -- Don't Force Landlords Who Move Into Small Buildings to Pay Relocation Fees

September 6, 2019

Dear Editor,

I read in the Santa Monica Lookout that the Council plans to require landlords who occupy their two-and three unit buildings to give tenants relocation payments if they jack up the rents ("Council Moves to Add Tenant Protections to Small Owner-Occupied Buildings," September 4, 2019).

This may have some merit for long-term, low-rent tenants. However, market rate tenants will always take the massive relocation fees if offered -- they are way, way more than the true cost of moving across town.

And what if an owner needs to relocate for a couple of years, rents the unit, then moves back in. Do they have to offer relocation again. Market rate tenants would jump at the chance.

Certainly you should not expect the same owner to keep paying relocation over and over again on the same units, even if to different groups of tenants.

Many currently exempt owners charge their tenants below market rents, as good tenants are valued by owners. Being exempt does not imply that rents will be raised.

Many owners seek an exemption simply to get out from the nightmarish oversight of the rent control board.

Taking all those complications into consideration, I would argue that if a building has been exempt within the recent past (say, within the last 7 years), then it’s likely that the rents will be near market.

In that case, relocation benefits should not be required to achieve exemption from rent control.

The irony of rent control is that the tighter it is, the higher rents go, and the harder it is to find a vacancy.

The end result of legislation like this is that many units will simply be left empty when tenants move out, and the owners will use the units for themselves and their family.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Borresen,
Santa Monica


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