The California Apartment Association this week vowed to continue its efforts to fix aspects of a rent freeze measure in Santa Ana that violate the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

CAA has warned Santa Ana that its rent freeze ordinance runs counter to state law. Unmoved, the council this week voted 5-1 to affirm the measure. The lone no vote came from Councilman Jose Solorio, who acknowledged several issues with the rent freeze and identified conflicts with state law.

“I do worry that even though this might sunset, there is still a statute of limitations and landlords … could sue and the city would be possibly liable,” Solorio said during the meeting, as reported by the Voice of OC.

Santa Ana imposed its rent freeze in response to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s financial impacts on renters.

The measure is unlawful because it applies to all tenants and all housing, regardless of housing type or age. This sweeping application conflicts with Costa-Hawkins, which prohibits local governments from imposing rent control on single-family homes and condominiums and on apartments built after 1995.

CAA sent this letter to the city, asking that it and an executive order imposing the rent freeze to bring it in line with Costa-Hawkins.

Victor Cao

The association will continue working with a broad coalition of housing providers to amend the rent freeze,” said Victor Cao, CAA’s vice president of public affairs in Orange County, adding that legal action is also a possibility.

“Apparently, for most Santa Ana city leaders, following state law isn’t a priority,” Cao said. “We suspect voters and the courts would see things differently.”