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Santa Monica Hikes Fines for Housing Violations
1900 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
By Jorge Casuso
September 27, 2019 -- Property owners who violate Santa Monica's housing laws will face much stiffer fines under a fee schedule adopted by the City Council on Tuesday.
The fines -- which will typically rise from $75 to $1000 -- include those for violating the City's home sharing and vacation rental laws.
The Council also directed staff to explore if the new fines are high enough to deter property owners, who stand to make significant profits, from violating the housing laws.
"The increase in these fines is long overdue and is substantial," said Councilmember Kevin McKeown, "but may not still be enough to deter people from behavior that threatens our rent control housing."
McKeown successfully moved that staff explore further improvements that could be made to the code enforcement fine increases.
These could include exploring whether some violations could be considered a criminal act, imposing fines on a per-day basis and tying the amount of a fine to the difference in rent a property owner collects.
Under the new fee structure, those who violate the City's 2015 home sharing ordinance would be fined $1,000 per offense for advertising, facilitating or operating a vacation rental.
The current fines, staff said, "amount to a fraction of the rental profits" which can net thousands of dollars a month.
The average nightly rent for an entire apartment is about $400, while some entire homes list for $1,500 a night, according to staff.
"Hosts with multiple listings are the highest priority for enforcement but without a substantial financial penalty the majority will continue to violate the law while calculating the administrative fines as part of the cost of doing business," staff said.
Considered the strictest home sharing law in the nation, Santa Monica's ordinance requires hosts to live on the premises and restricts stays to 30 days.
Last month, the Council directed staff to look for ways to limit hostel-style operations ("Santa Monica Moves to Tighten Strict Home Sharing Law," September 3, 2019).
The Council on Tuesday also voted to increase from $75 to $1,000 the fines for violating laws that prohibit property owners from evicting tenants to occupy buildings being converted from apartments to condominiums or removed from the rental market under the Ellis Act.
Fines for property owners who "interrupt necessary housing services, prevent tenants from accessing their unit, or take any other such action to recover possession of a rent-controlled unit," will remain at $500.
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