On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Senate Bill 529 (María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles), which aimed to prevent landlord retaliation against tenants who form tenant associations, failed to pass the California Senate by one vote. The measure, sponsored by Tenants Together, required 21 votes to pass the Senate.
SB 529 would have been the first bill of its kind to protect renters collectively working to improve housing conditions and fight against predatory rent hikes, landlord harassment and mass eviction attempts. In most of California, tenants involved in tenant unions or associations can be evicted without cause. While state law prohibits retaliation against tenants, these laws are difficult to enforce and tenants are left with little to no recourse.
Despite support from over 60 organizations representing a broad coalition of labor, housing justice, and legal aid organizations, the bill was narrowly defeated. Despite real estate organizations and apartment associations coming out in force to oppose SB 529, 20 out of 28 Democratic Senators voted in favor of the bill. Of the remaining Democratic Senators, 5 (Archuleta, Dodd, Galgiani, Hurtado, and Umberg) opposed the bill and 3 (Glazer, Hueso, and Roth) abstained, despite most representing districts where renters make up a sizable portion of their constituents.
“We are dismayed that members of the Democratic controlled State Senate caved into pressure from the real estate industry and voted against SB 529,” said Lupe Arreola, Executive Director of Tenants Together, “we are thankful for the support of 20 of 38 senators, and for the tireless advocacy of Senator Durazo and her staff. We will continue fighting to ensure every one of California’s 17 million renters can make their voices heard without fear of retaliation and eviction.”