City Council Passes Tenant Protection for Remodels

In a long-awaited decision, the City Council last week updated its eviction policy to protect renters from no-fault termination of tenancies to accommodate “substantial remodels,” which was seen as a loophole to the city’s moratorium.
The council unanimously adopted an urgency ordinance at its meeting on Jan. 20 that requires landlords to apply for and acquire building permits for substantial remodels or demolitions before using the reasoning to prompt tenant evictions. The motion was made by Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cacciotti and seconded by Councilwoman Evelyn Zneimer.

“I thought we might want to sit on it, but the more I listen, I think we really want to pass it,” said Councilman Jack Donovan, who voiced support for the ordinance early in the meeting.“There’s no reason to sit on it,” he added. “The staff recommends it, the safeguards for the tenants seem to be there and if they were abused, I think it’d be a very small percentage of landlords that do it, and the city can take the appropriate steps and can help.”
The council made the decision after continuing a public hearing that began in mid-December, but the issue of protecting renters from Assembly Bill 1482’s unintended loophole had been a topic at the council meetings for nearly three months.
Back on Nov. 4, the council established a 45-day moratorium on evictions for substantial remodels in response to AB 1482, otherwise called the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019.
AB 1482 states that “property owners can issue no-fault termination for tenancies for select reasons, including intent to demolish or to substantially remodel the residential real property.”
The council was concerned that it created a loophole for the eviction of tenants in spite of coronavirus-related bans on evictions, with the possibility of landlords issuing evictions without proper justification that the work to be done on the building will take more than 30 days and require the tenant to be out of the building.
To prevent this, the urgency ordinance passed by the council states that “No ‘just cause’ eviction for ‘substantial remodel’ or demolition shall be effective unless building permits were first secured from the city of South Pasadena.” Essentially, this means a landlord must be well on his or her way to actually performing the remodel or demolition, instead of claiming to be doing the remodel, evicting the tenant and then not following through.
Landlords have been at odds with city and state officials who have largely prohibited any evictions for non-payment of rent when the tenants can prove pandemic-related losses to income.
In addition, the ordinance dictates that “included with the notice of termination of the tenancy, the tenant was provided with copies of the building permit(s) and with a written detailed explanation of the scope of work, why the work cannot be reasonably accomplished in a safe manner with the tenant in place.”
Councilman Jon Primuth encouraged a change to the final phrase of the ordinance, which originally stated “… why the work cannot be reasonably accomplished in a safe manner with the tenant in place, and why the work cannot be completed within 30 days.”
He suggested that it align closer with the Los Angeles’ municipal code language, which is phrased “…why the work cannot be reasonably accomplished in a safe manner with the tenant in place, and why the work requires the tenant to vacate the residential real property for at least 30 days.”
“If you have aspects of the work that could be completed while the tenant is in the unit, that still could be work that cannot be completed within 30 days,” Primuth said. “I think the real goal of this is to provide a mechanism for eviction if the work cannot be completed with the tenant in place.”
Mayor Diana Mahmud remained in favor of the original wording, but was open to compromise and combined the original phrase with Primuth’s suggestions to complete the ordinance.
The council will next meet on Feb. 3.