UPDATE: CAA kills Ammiano’s anti-Ellis Act bill


An anti-Ellis Act bill is dead after its author refused to eliminate wording that would have encouraged tenants to wage court battles as a tactic to stay in rent-controlled apartments already removed from the market.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

The California Apartment Association on Tuesday derailed AB 2405 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

The bill received four votes but needed six to survive its hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Last week, after CAA persuaded lawmakers to gut the most problematic aspects of the bill, AB 2405 advanced from the Assembly Committee on Local Government.

On Tuesday, however, Ammiano would not agree to remove a remaining, faulty provision — despite his indications otherwise last week.

When AB 2405 reached the Judiciary Committee, it still included wording that encouraged tenants to go to court after they had already received extensive notice and relocation dollars from the landlord when a building was removed from the rental market through the Ellis Act.

The bill’s wording would have specifically hid from public view lawsuits filed to remove a tenant, ensuring no negative mark against the tenant’s credit record.  In the end, the tenant would have nothing to lose by using the court to extend his or her time in the building for – in many cases – more than a year.   All the while, the landlord would receive no rent payments.

As originally worded, the bill by Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would have threatened the Ellis Act much more directly.

The bill, as initial introduced, would have required that tenant-contested Ellis evictions be heard as general civil actions (not through the unlawful detainer process), which would have left the actions languishing in the court system for years, even as some property owners continued their financial bleeding. This would have conflicted with the intent of state law to resolve all eviction cases swiftly.

Passed by the state Legislature in 1985, Ellis provides that no local government can require that a rental property owner continue to offer his or her housing for rent. The act is especially important in cities with rent control, where the cost of doing business can leave owners losing money.

The initial bill also allowed 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 a regional housing need.

Even with Ammiano’s bill derailed, the Ellis Act remains in the crosshairs of SB 1439 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

Senator Leno’s legislation would allow San Francisco to require that landlords hold a rental property for five years before taking it off the rental market – a provision that’s now piqued the interest of Los Angeles. This bill now heads to the Judiciary Committee and is expected to reach the Senate Floor.