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Rent Payment Bill Bad Idea

May 6, 2011

Dear Editor,

I wanted to take the opportunity to comment from the housing provider's perspective on the article about Assembly Bill 265 that, in its current form, will actually give residential tenants the right to not pay their rent on time. ("State Bill Protecting Tenants Closer to Vote," May 4, 2011)

This bad policy and bad law seeks to relieve tenants from having to pay their rent on time and evade subsequent court proceedings up until the day before they lose their apartment if they agree to then pay the past due rent plus capped legal costs that are below what property owners typically experience in pursuing tenants who are in default by not paying their rent.

So, no matter how many times they've done it before, tenants can repeatedly defer their rent payments for at least several weeks, although as a practical matter it is many months -- while the matter winds its way through the judicial process.

It will allow tenants to do this without any basic or reasonable means test for economic hardship. In other words, it rewards bad behavior and effectively eliminates any motivation to pay rent on time.

Of course, this new right to avoid paying rent literally comes at the expense of the property owners, particularly the small ones, who have mortgages and other bills to pay but cannot do so unless they receive rent payments on time.

And property owners may not want to be forced to continue with a tenant who doesn't pay rent on time and who may cause other problems that affect the quality of life for other tenants at the property.

Under the City of Santa Monica's just cause eviction protections, tenants who behave badly are protected and thus rewarded, while good tenants and good owners have to endure this bad behavior because, as a practical matter, the ability to evict a bad tenant does not actually exist.

Residential apartment owners, including the City of Santa Monica, have been able to evict tenants who cause problems for other residents after they have defaulted on paying rent. Under the pending legislation the ability to do this will be eliminated and the good tenants and good property owners will have to continue to suffer the bad tenants.


Joseph E. Fitzsimons

Editor's note: Fitzsimons is a Vice-President with Sullivan-Dituri Company, a Real Estate; Brokerage and Property Management Firm that has been managing property in Santa Monica for individual, corporate and municipal clients
since 1962.

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