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Renters fear homelessness, so SLO City Council passes emergency law to help

San Luis Obispo Tribune logo San Luis Obispo Tribune 11/27/2019 By Nick Wilson, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

The San Luis Obispo City Council passed an urgency rental ordinance Tuesday in response to complaints of rising rents and eviction notices in advance of a new state law.

AB 1482, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8 and takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, aims to protect renters against rental cost spikes and evictions.

The new statewide law caps rents to 5%, plus the rate of inflation, for a maximum of 10% per year, according to San Luis Obispo officials.

Additionally, under the new law, landlords must show “just” cause to evict tenants.

San Luis Obispo’s emergency law mirrors the state law, and protects against any rent increases above the state’s impending caps. It also prevents evictions without just cause that haven’t yet been processed during the interim period.

Tenants who haven’t paid increased rent over the state’s new limits, retroactive to March 2019, now wouldn’t be forced to do so.

“The city must do what it can to protect citizens from unscrupulous landlords, looking to skirt a tenants’ rights bill ahead of statewide implementation,” Erin and Michael Foote of San Luis Obispo wrote in a letter to the council.

The city received complaints of rent increase and eviction notices, stating some landlords were trying to take advantage of a loophole in the law. Tenants even expressed worries of becoming homeless during the holidays.

“I’m in full agreement with the ordinance and just with the general idea that housing is a human right,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said. “Housing is a major city goal here. (The new state law) is a mild effort to try and remedy the lack of affordability and accessibility in the state.

“It seems like here in SLO there is quite literally an increasing lack of housing, as we see in our unsheltered folks living in our community.”

Several local residents appeared at the meeting to express their concerns about impacts on their rentals, and potential eviction notices.

Robert Todd, 66, of San Luis Obispo said that, as of Dec. 1, he will be homeless.

“Homelessness for me could be a death sentence,” Todd said.

Harmon said that the city would direct him to resources to help.

Stephanie Barclay, an attorney with San Luis Obispo’s Legal Assistance Foundation, said that she has never had such an influx of calls as she’s received of late.

They have come from people seeking legal help with severe rent increases and eviction notices, Barclary said, adding that another legal organization, California Rural Legal Assistance, has had similar calls.

“I’m grateful and would encourage you to pass this ordinance,” Barclay said before a 4-0 council vote approving it with Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson absent.

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©2019 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

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