CAA letter points to problems with Ammiano’s anti-Ellis Act bill


The California Apartment Association has written a letter to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, detailing several defects in his anti-Ellis Act bill before he presents it to an Assembly committee next week.

Passed by the state Legislature in 1985, California’s Ellis Act says no local government can require that a rental property owner continue to offer his or her housing for rent. Ammiano’s bill, which would gut the act, goes before the Assembly Committee on Local Government on Wednesday, April 23.

At its core, Assembly Bill 2405 would keep contested Ellis Act evictions stuck in the court system for years on end – and in areas with housing affordability issues, it could ban the use of the Ellis Act entirely.

EllisActImageDelays in Ellis Act evictions would come from converting all Ellis court filings to general civil actions, taking them out of the expedited unlawful-detainer eviction process.

Particularly in cities with rent control, the Ellis Act gives landlords an escape hatch of sorts – both for financial and more personal reasons.

“Over the years, rental property owners have relied on the Ellis Act in order to move into their own rental units or to sell or convert their units to another use,” CAA’s opposition letter says.  “Owners who sell or convert do so in order to escape onerous local laws that force them to stay in the rental housing business despite the fact that they lose money each month.”

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Ammiano’s bill would also allow cities and counties to prohibit use of the Ellis Act when they’ve failed to identify, or make available, adequate sites for low- and moderate-income housing to satisfy the regional housing need.

This would give the rental housing industry, and California, a dubious distinction.

“There is no other industry in the United States where a local government can force a small business owner to stay in business against his or her will, even when losing money,” CAA’s letter states.

While Ellis makes sure landlords can exit the rental housing business, it allows cities and counties to dictate how they do so.

For example, local governments can require owners to provide moving assistance and specific amounts of notice.

Cities make use of this authority. San Francisco recently passed an ordinance requiring owners to pay the difference between the tenant’s current rent and what the tenant would have to pay for a similar apartment for two years – an estimated cost of between $40,000 and $50,000 per unit.

Click here to read CAA’s letter to Ammiano, and stay tuned for requests from CAA to write your own letters to lawmakers urging rejection of AB 2405.

The bill isn’t the only one that threatens the integrity of the Ellis Act. Two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 1439 narrowly survived a hearing in the Transportation and Housing Committee. Unlike Ammiano’s bill, SB 1439 would only apply in San Francisco, authorizing the city to prohibit new owners from using the Ellis Act until they’ve held residential rental property for at least five years.