| Read Time: 3 minutes | Tenant Rights

The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 emerged as a groundbreaking law championing tenants’ rights and protections. California Civil Code Section 1946.2 was enacted to address growing housing affordability and the problems facing low-income tenants by strengthening rent control and just cause for eviction protections. It’s a significant step towards ensuring that tenants in California have real rights, are not abused by their landlords, and have a safety net – especially in areas where local regulations might fall short.

The Essence of the Tenant Protection Act in California

The CA Tenant Protection Act is more than just a piece of legislation; it’s a commitment to safeguarding tenants across the state. It applies to most residential rentals that are not already covered by similar local laws. If local regulations are more stringent, they take precedence, ensuring tenants’ highest level of protection. The Act went into effect on January 1, 2020, and will expire on January 1, 2030, unless renewed.

Rent Control Explained

A pivotal aspect of the Act is it’s effect on control. This measure creates state wide rent control which caps annual rent increases at 5% plus the Consumer Price Index for your area or 10%, whichever is less. However, for these protections to kick in, tenants must have resided in the unit for at least 12 months, or at least one tenant must have been there for 24 months. 

Just Cause Eviction Protections

The most important aspect of the Act is that it prevents landlords from evicting tenants simply because they don’t like the tenant or because they want to rent the unit to another tenant for more money. Under the Act, landlords are required to demonstrate just cause for evicting tenants. Eviction can only occur under specific circumstances, broadly categorized into “at-fault” and “no-fault” reasons. “At-fault” reasons under CA Civil Code 1946.2 include those circumstances where the tenant: 

  • Fails to pay rent, 
  • Breaches a material lease term, 
  • Creates a nuisance,
  • Engages in criminal activity on the property,
  • Sublets the property in violation of the rental or lease agreement, 
  • Refuses access to the owner, and 
  • Refuses to sign renewal or extension of lease or rental agreement at expiration of current term. 

Examples of “no-fault” reasons include situations where the owner is: 

  • Withdrawing the unit from the rental market, 
  • Undertaking substantial renovations or demolishing the unit, or 
  • Failing to comply with governmental orders to make repairs to the point where the unit must be taken off th emarket.

Another no-fault reason might be that the owner or their family intends to occupy the premises. However, this is a complicated one that requires meeting certain other conditions. 

Exemptions to the “just cause” provisions include, but are not limited to, units within specific accommodations, such as hotels, hospitals, dormitories, and units shared with the property’s owner, among others. Additionally, units exempt from the Act include newly constructed buildings under 15 years old and certain single-family homes, provided specific criteria are met. Other units exempt from “just cause” regulations are already subject to local regulations, which have more comprehensive protections than state laws. 

Relocation Assistance

If you are evicted for a “no-fault” reason, the Act mandates that landlords waive the last month’s rent or provide a relocation payment equal to one month’s rent. The choice of which one is up to the landlord. This provision underscores the emphasis on supporting tenants through transitions that are not their fault.

Protections Against Harassment and Wrongful Rent Increases

While the Act doesn’t directly address landlord harassment, numerous state laws penalize such behavior, offering tenants avenues for recourse. If a landlord unjustly raises rent beyond allowed limits, tenants can challenge this through small claims court, potentially recovering the difference.

Eviction Defense and Wrongful Eviction Recourse

Should a landlord attempt to evict without just cause, tenants can use this as a defense in their eviction proceedings. Wrongful eviction could lead to landlords facing lawsuits for rent differential or loss of use. In cases involving elderly or disabled tenants, damages could be tripled if it’s proven the landlord acted with egregious disregard.

Legal Consultation Recommended for Landlords

Given the complexities and the severe consequences of non-compliance, landlords are encouraged to seek legal advice before making rent adjustments or pursuing evictions. Otherwise, they could violate one or more provisions of California Civil Code Section 1946.2. 

Contact Riley | Ersoff LLP

The California Tenant Protection Act marks a significant step forward in tenant rights and protections. By understanding the nuances of rent control, just cause for eviction protections, and the specific exemptions and obligations under the Act, tenants and landlords can navigate their relationships with greater awareness and respect for each other’s rights. This legislation promotes stability and fairness in the housing market and reflects a broader commitment to addressing California’s housing challenges.

If you believe your landlord violated the Tenant Protection Act in California, reach out to a skilled lawyer at Riley | Ersoff LLP immediately. We have almost seven decades of combined experience and have recovered over $135 million on behalf of clients, including in matters involving landlord abuse. Schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help. 

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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