All of a sudden it's become awfully modish to propose renter-friendly housing legislation in City Hall. First there was passage of an inclusionary housing bill setting aside a percentage of new buildings for low-income housing. And there was the declaration of a “housing crisis” in the city of San Diego. Now comes a proposal by City Councilmember Donna Frye to create an unjust-eviction law.
The proposal would require that upon landlord service of eviction notices to month-to-month tenants, the notice must include the reason for the tenant's eviction. Landlords are not currently required to supply reason for eviction.
“I'm just trying some common sense,” Frye said. “I was not aware, before I started talking to people, that you can be evicted for no reason, and a lot of people don't know until it happens to them. Something needed to be done about it.”
According to 2000 Census results, 50.5 percent of San Diego's 1.4 million residents are renting.
More than 1,000 evictions are served every month in downtown San Diego alone, said Steve Kellman, executive director of the Tenants Legal Center, which provides low-cost legal assistance to renters involved in housing disputes.
The principle concern for Frye and Kellman is that the housing crisis has prompted greedy landlords to continually bump up rent. Unfortunately there is no way to quantify the occurrence of these evictions, Frye said.
“Many times 30-day notices are prompted because the landlords want to raise the rent significantly and they figure that it's better to remove these tenants,” Kellman said.
The Tenant Association Web site provides information on the basic rights of renters as well as tips to avoid being taken advantage of. The site receives 10,000 hits per month, and the Tenant Association office gets 200 calls per day.
Under state law, a landlord must provide 30-day notice for rent increases of less than 10 percent and 60-day notice for rent increases higher than 10 percent.
Landlords and property owners in San Diego are plenty pissed.
Increasing the rent to react to the value of the market is perfectly legal and by all economic theory is good business, said Frank Tayco, spokesman for the San Diego County Apartment Association. He also points out that there are no rent control laws in San Diego.
Tayco believes that the approval of such a law will make landlords and property owners virtually powerless to evict renters who cause real problems.
Frye will withhold the proposal until a Housing Task Force is formed as a part of the inclusionary housing action passed by the City Council on Aug. 6.
“I want to get all of the public input I can on this,” Frye said. “But if it takes too long, I will do what I can to push it along.”