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State Bill Protecting Tenants Closer to Vote  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 4, 2011 -- Tenants throughout the state moved a little closer to receiving additional protections as a bill guaranteeing their right to redeem their tenancy cleared the California Assembly Judiciary Committee last week.

Under AB 265, renters who've been served a three-day notice to pay or quit the premises could pay their landlords rent and costs after three days have passed and stay in their homes, according to Tenants Together, a California renters' rights advocacy group.

Thursday next week, the Santa Monica Rent Control Board will vote on a letter of support for the legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Tom Ammiano.

“It's the sort of thing the Rent Control Board supports,” Board Manager Stephen Lewis told the Lookout Tuesday.

Renters are at a disadvantage under the current state law, which Lewis said local laws cannot supercede.

“Tenants who are just four days late on rent can be thrown out of their homes notwithstanding their willingness to pay rent, even if they have lived there for years,” said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together.

“Landlords are under no legal obligation to accept the rent after the three-day notice expires and can move forward with eviction even if tenants are willing and able to pay the rent and any costs incurred by the landlord,” Preston said.

Tenants served a three-day notice on Friday may not even be aware of it until Monday, which only gives them one day to pay up, Lewis pointed out.

And there's been no cost of living increase for social security recipients in recent years, Lewis added. They may need an extra four or five days to scrape up the rent.

People like these who have temporary problems raising the rent are the kinds of people the Rent Control Board is meant to serve Lewis said.

Lobbyists for landlords strenuously oppose the bill, saying it places an unfair burden on landlords.

But Tenants Together says that, unlike renters, landlords already have the right to redeem their mortgages if they fall late in their payments under California law.

And, the tenants rights group says, in addition to the rent, landlords would get their costs paid under the provisions of the bill.

A number of states already have similar laws.

“Why should tenants in Mississippi, Arizona, North Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Washington D.C. have a right to redemption, but not California tenants?” asked Ammiano. “With the second highest rents in the nation, California tenants are suffering in the current economy.

“Despite their best efforts, some tenants cannot pay the rent on time, but with the help of family, friends or nonprofit rental assistance programs are able to come up with the money soon after it is due,” said Ammiano. “These tenants should be protected from eviction.”

The Santa Monica Rent Control Board will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 at Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main Street. In addition to voting on a letter of support for AB 265, the board will also release its annual report.


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