Pasadena Rent Control Petition Drive Launched

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Eddie Rivera
Pasadena Now

Supporters of an initiative which would establish rent control in Pasadena as well as limitations on the termination of rental tenancies officially notified City officials Wednesday afternoon of their intention to publicly circulate a petition supporting a new City Charter Amendment to those ends.

The notice of intent to circulate the petition was signed by Pasadena housing activist Michelle C. White; Nicole Marie Hodgson, who is a leader of the year-old Pasadena Tenants Union; and 85-year-old Pasadena renter Robert Roberts.

The notice was accompanied by a 36-page document called “The Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Charter Amendment.”

Reached late Wednesday evening, White asked not to comment until she could formalize a response in conjunction with the other signers.

The petition lays out in its introduction that “The City of Pasadena does not currently regulate the amount of rent a landlord may charge, nor does it establish limitations on the termination of tenancies,” and adds, “this measure is a charter amendment that would prohibit landlords from evicting a tenant except for specified reasons and limit the amount that landlords could increase the rent.”

Certain types of rental units would be either fully or partially exempt from regulation under the measure, including single-family homes and condos, the Notice of Intent said.

The Notice also explained that, according to the proposed charter, “For all rental units in the City subject to the measure, a landlord may terminate a tenancy only for the reasons specified in the measure. Landlords can continue to terminate a tenancy for reasons such as failure to pay rent, a breach of the lease, or using the unit for an illegal purpose. However, landlords are restricted from terminating a tenancy when the tenant is not at fault for the eviction, subject to a few exemptions, such as owner move-in. In the case of these “no-fault” evictions, landlords must pay relocation benefits to the displaced tenants.”

The new measure would set base rents for those rental units covered under the measure, according to the petition. The base rent would be set at the rent in effect on November 15, 2017. If the tenancy began after this date, the base rent would be the rent charged upon initial occupancy. A landlord would be able to raise the rent annually by the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index, though the annual rent increase would be capped at 4.5%.

A newly created Rental Housing Board would manage the implementation and administration of this measure, the Notice stated. The Board would consist of five members appointed by the City Council.,and would establish regulations, determine the allowable annual rent adjustment, hear individual rent adjustment petitions and go to court to enforce the measure. The Board would also exercise its powers and duties independently from the City Council and City Attorney, except by request, according to the notice of petition.

As the Notice detailed, a landlord may file an Individual Rent Adjustment Petition with the Rental Housing Board to raise the rent more than the annual allowable increase if necessary to provide a fair return on the landlord’s investment. The Board would consider details such as the cost of capital improvements, the reasonable costs in maintenance and operating expenses, and the cost of landlord-performed labor. Rent could also be decreased if the landlord fails to maintain a habitable rental unit or charges unlawful rent. Both tenants and landlords can sue in court to challenge a Board’s decision.

“Landlords could not retaliate or harass their tenants for reporting violations of the measure, exercising tenants’ rights, or participating in tenant organizations,” the Notice continued.

The proposed amendment also stated that it would “be effective only if approved by a majority of the voters voting thereon, and shall go into effect ten days after the vote is declared by the City Council. The Mayor and City Clerk are hereby authorized to execute this Article to give evidence of its adoption by the voters.”

The amendment also noted that it would “supersede any conflicting provisions of a municipal ordinance covering the area of rents, evictions, relocation assistance, or other matters addressed herein.” However,” it continued, nothing in this subsection shall be construed to restrict the authority of the City Council to enact complementary or non-conflicting ordinances or take other such actions within its powers, where such ordinances or actions are designed to comply with, or further the terms and purposes of this article.”

Should other ballot initiatives on the same matter be approved in the same election, the new charter amendment would “supersede and prevail over any initiative ordinance which amends the Pasadena Municipal Code, regardless of the number of affirmative votes received.”

The amendment also stated that should it receive a greater number of affirmative votes than any other such proposed charter amendment, including one that would provide property owners with the right to set rental prices, then, “This (Amendment) shall control in its entirety and the other proposed charter amendment shall be rendered void and without any legal effect.

Should the amendment receive fewer affirmative votes than any other such proposed charter amendment, it stated, “all provisions of this (amendment) which are not directly contradicted by the initiative receiving a greater number of affirmative votes will apply to the extent permitted by law.”

Mayor Terry Tornek and members of the City Council were unavailable for comment.

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