Ammiano Bill To Protect Tenants After Ownership Changes Heads To Governor

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Tenants Together

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A bill to protect tenants after ownership changes was approved by the California Senate late yesterday afternoon by a 22-15 vote. Tenant advocates are urging the governor to sign the bill into law. AB 1953 (Ammiano) plugs a loophole in California law which has allowed landlords, especially after a foreclosure, to wait months after buying rental property before notifying the tenants of the new ownership, where to send rent and whom to contact for repairs. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk.

Existing law - California Civil Code 1962(c) - requires new owners to notify tenants within 15 days of an ownership change, where to pay rent, and whom to contact for repairs. The purpose of the statute is to ensure a smooth transition when a new landlord takes over. Increasingly, new owners, especially of foreclosed homes, fail to communicate with tenants for months after acquiring the property. Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights, cites cases of banks waiting over six months before notifying tenants of the new ownership and where to send rent.

Left in the dark about the identity of their new landlord, tenants do not know where to pay rent or how to get the landlord to make necessary repairs. In an increasingly common scenario, tenants fall victim to scammers posing as their new landlords and demanding rent. These scams have received media coverage across the state.

Under AB 1953, a new owner who delays in notifying a tenant where to pay rent would not be permitted later to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent that accrued during the period of the owner's noncompliance. By creating a consequence for failing to properly notify tenants of ownership changes, the bill seeks to increase compliance with existing notification requirements and protect tenants from unnecessary confusion and evictions.

According to bill author Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D - San Francisco), "This bill is really simple. It says landlords can't evict someone for non-payment of rent if they haven't been told properly where that rent is supposed to be paid. Too many tenants have been scammed out of their homes by the confusion of an ownership change. We're putting a stop to that."

Tyler Macmillan, Executive Director of the nonprofit Eviction Defense Collaborative praised the bill. "This is an important bill to give some relief to tenants who are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to stay on top of their rent and other expenses. The message to successor landlords is clear: if you want to collect rent, then comply with state law and promptly notify your tenants where to send it. That's not too much to ask."

The bill is sponsored by Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. Tenants Together operates a renters' rights hotline and has counseled thousands of tenants in foreclosed properties. One of the common complaints is confusion about who owns the property after foreclosure and who is responsible for rent collection and repairs. California tenants can reach the hotline for free assistance at 1.888.495.8020.


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