A bill that threatened to strip landlords of their right to leave the rental housing business failed on the Senate floor Wednesday, May 28, thanks largely to fierce opposition by the California Apartment Association.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco
Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

SB 1439 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, garnered 18 yes votes but needed 21 to advance from the Senate to the Assembly. While Leno can ask for a new vote through Friday, his chances of resuscitating the bill are meager.

To defeat Leno’s bill, CAA lobbied heavily at the Capitol, launched an educational website for the public and spearheaded a letter-writing campaign that prompted hundreds of letters to lawmakers.

The legislation would have greatly weakened the Ellis Act, a landmark law that bars local governments from making property owners stay in the rental housing industry. Passed by the Legislature in 1985, the Ellis Act particularly helps owners of properties in rent-controlled cities, where landlords can find themselves operating at a loss.

Under Leno’s bill, San Francisco would have been authorized to place the Ellis Act out of reach for newer property owners. After purchasing rental property in The City, the owner would have been forced to wait at least five years before removing his or her rental units from the market — even if losing money month after month.

Owners wanting to move themselves or their families into their own units also would have been denied access to Ellis before meeting the five-year ownership requirement. CAA’s triumph over SB 1439 marks the second time this year that the Association has defeated an anti-Ellis Act bill.

In April, CAA derailed AB 2405 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

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), leaving 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.

CAA would like to thank its members for helping fight both bills. The rental housing industry, however, must remain vigilant against threats to property rights, whether in San Francisco or elsewhere in the state.


Background stories

  • Leno’s Ellis Act bill passes Judiciary Committee
  • Leno’s bill progresses to Judiciary Committee, although barely
  • Anti-Ellis Act bill heading to Housing Committee
  • San Francisco lawmakers’ attempt to gut Ellis Act meets resistance
  • CAA posts website to educate public on Ellis Act
  • CAA chapter sues to protect property owner rights under Ellis Act
  • CAA discusses Ellis Act, San Francisco on NPR program