OC Senate Dems Umberg and Archuleta Blocking ‘Just Cause’ Tenant Eviction Bill

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Democrats have a 2/3 majority in the State Senate.  Once again, that is turning out to be a supermajority more in theory than in practice.

(1) SB 529

Here’s the text of SB 529, by Connie Leyva Maria Elena Durazo, which deals with Tenant Rights — specifically, establishing just cause rather than “at will” eviction for most renters.  While this would not help people in mobile home parks, a topic that Vern has written on extensively here, “just cause” evictions would help the security of renters.


Chapter 2.9 (commencing with Section 1954.700) is added to Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

CHAPTER  2.9. Tenant Associations


For purposes of this chapter:

(a) “Condominium” has the same meaning as defined in Section 783.
(b) “Landlord” means an owner, lessor, sublessor, or any other person or entity entitled to offer any residential unit for rent or entitled to receive rent for the use and occupancy of any rental unit.
(c) (1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2), “rental unit” means a room or a group of two or more rooms designed, intended, or used for human habitation and includes apartments, condominiums, stock cooperatives, single-dwelling units, and hotel units.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), “rental unit” does not include any of the following:
(A) Housing accommodations in any hospital, convent, monastery, extended care facility, asylum, nonprofit home for the aged, or a fraternity or sorority house.
(B) Mobilehomes subject to the Mobilehome Residency Law (Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 798) of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 2), recreational vehicles subject to the Recreational Vehicle Park Occupancy Law (Chapter 2.6 (commencing with Section 799.20) of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 2), or floating homes subject to the Floating Home Residency Law (Chapter 2.7 (commencing with Section 800) of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 2).
(C) Transient occupancies described in subdivision (b) of Section 1940.
(d) “Single-dwelling unit” means a single detached structure containing one dwelling unit for human habitation and accessory buildings appurtenant thereto located on a lot or parcel and all housing services provided in connection with the use or occupancy thereof.
(e) “Stock cooperative” has the same meaning as defined in Section 11003.2 of the Business and Professions Code.
(f) “Tenancy” means the right or entitlement of a tenant to use or occupy a rental unit.
(g) “Tenant” includes a tenant, subtenant, lessee, sublessee, or other person legally in possession or occupying a rental unit.
(h) “Tenant association” means a group of tenants from three or more rental units that are owned or operated by the same landlord who form or maintain an organization, whether incorporated or unincorporated, to improve housing conditions, amenities, community life, or the contractual position of the member tenants.


(a) (1) (A) Tenants shall have the right to form, join, and participate in the activities of a tenant association, subject to any restrictions as may be imposed by law, or to refuse to join or participate in the activities of a tenant association.

(B) Each tenant association subject to this chapter shall adopt bylaws or an operating agreement for purposes of its internal governance.
(2) Notwithstanding any lease provision to the contrary, a landlord shall allow tenants and tenant organizers to engage in conduct related to the establishment or operation of a tenant association, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Distributing leaflets in lobby and other common areas or under tenants’ doors and posting information on bulletin boards.
(B) Initiating contact with tenants, conducting door-to-door surveys to ascertain interest in establishing a tenant association, or offering information about a tenant association.
(C) Offering assistance to tenants to participate in tenant association activities.
(D) Convening tenant association meetings onsite in a manner that is fully independent of the landlord or the landlord’s representatives. In order to preserve the independence of tenant associations, a landlord or a representative of the landlord shall not attend meetings of a tenant association unless invited by the tenant association.
(b) (1) This section does not require a landlord to provide nonresident tenant organizers with access to parts of a building or property that are not accessible to the public generally, unless the nonresident tenant organizer is a guest or invitee of a resident of the property. A landlord may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on access to lobbies and other common areas for the purpose of conducting activities related to the establishment or operation of a tenant organization.
(2) This section does not reduce or limit the rights set forth in Section 1942.6.
(c) It is the intent of Legislature that this chapter add protections for tenants that seek to engage in organizing activities through a tenant association. Therefore, this chapter shall not preempt, limit, supplant, or otherwise reduce the rights of tenants under other state or local law, except to the extent that the other law is inconsistent with this chapter.


(a) Notwithstanding any other law, the tenancy of a member of a tenant association subject to this chapter shall not be terminated, and its renewal shall not be refused, except for cause, which shall be stated with specificity in writing in the notice of termination or nonrenewal.

(b) (1) Subject to subdivision (e) of Section 1954.703, any Any landlord who attempts to terminate the tenancy of a member of a tenant association for cause, as provided in subdivision (a), shall provide the tenant a written notice to quit or terminate that recites the grounds under which the landlord is proceeding. The landlord shall provide the notice before or at the same time as, or as part of, the written notice of termination set forth in Section 1946 or 1946.1, as applicable, or the three-day notice described in Sections 1161 and 1161a of the Code of Civil Procedure, is served on the tenant.
(2) If a tenant who is a member of a tenant association receives a written notice to quit or terminate from a landlord that does not recite the grounds under which the landlord is proceeding, the tenant may notify the landlord that the tenant is a member of a tenant association subject to this chapter and request that the notice be withdrawn. Within seven days of receiving a request to withdraw a notice to quit or terminate pursuant to this paragraph, the landlord shall rescind the notice in writing. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a landlord from subsequently providing the tenant a written notice to quit or terminate that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (1).
(c) This section shall not be construed to prohibit the enactment, adoption, amendment, or enforcement of an ordinance or initiative by a city, county, or city and county establishing just cause eviction controls, including, but not limited to, just cause for eviction laws.

1954.703.(a)(1)A tenant who is a member of a tenant association consisting of five or more units has a limited statutory right to withhold rent as set forth in this section. Subject to subdivision (h), members of a tenant association may, by a majority vote, initiate proceedings to withhold payment of rent for up to one month in response to grievances or complaints with the landlord pursuant to this section.

(2)At least 30 days before withholding rent pursuant to this section, the tenant association shall provide written notice to the landlord that contains all of the following:

(A)A list of the grievances for which the members of the tenant association are seeking redress and, for each grievance listed, a resolution that would be satisfactory to the association. Each grievance shall fall into one of the following categories:

(i)conditions that fail to meet the standards set forth in Section 1941;

(ii)conditions constituting a breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment;

(iii)denial of any housing right conferred by applicable local, state, or federal law; or

(iv)any rent increase greater than the locally applicable consumer price index that cannot be justified on the basis of nonroutine maintenance expenditures.

(B)Notice that the tenant association plans to exercise the right to withhold payment of rent in accordance with this section if the landlord does not, within 30 days from receipt of the notice, comply with the tenant association demands or reach an alternate agreement that is satisfactory to the tenant association.

(C)The address to which the landlord should deliver a response.

(b)Within 10 days of receiving written notice pursuant to subdivision (a), the landlord shall mail or personally deliver to the tenant association a written response to that notice. For each grievance listed in the notice, the landlord shall indicate whether the landlord will resolve the grievance as proposed by the tenant association or meet with the tenants in good faith to discuss an alternative resolution.

(c)Within 20 days of receiving the written notice pursuant to subdivision (a), the landlord shall meet with the tenant association. The parties may agree to have a mediator present at the meeting, provided that the cost of the mediator, if any, is not charged to the tenants or their association. At the meeting, for any of the grievances listed in the notice which the landlord has agreed to resolve in the manner proposed by the tenant association, the landlord shall provide a progress report. For all other grievances listed in the notice, the landlord shall confer in good faith with the tenant signatories about alternative ways to resolve each grievance.

(d)No sooner than 30 days after delivering the written notice of grievance to the landlord, if the members of the tenant association are not satisfied with the landlord response or progress that the landlord has made toward resolving the grievances listed in the notice, the tenant association may authorize the withholding of one month’s rent under this subdivision. Each member of the tenant association exercising the option to withhold rent pursuant to this subdivision shall:

(1)purchase a money order or cashier’s check, payable to the landlord, in an amount equal to one month’s rent, and shall hold that money order or cashier’s check until the resolution of the grievances specified in the written notice provided pursuant to subdivision (a) of this section or until the one-month withholding period has lapsed, whichever occurs earlier;

(2)sign a written notice to the landlord indicating that the tenant is exercising the tenant’s right to withhold rent pursuant to this section; and

(3)attach to the written notice a copy of the cashier’s check or money order demonstrating that the member has complied with paragraph (1) of this subdivision.

(e)The landlord shall not serve a written notice to quit or terminate pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1954.702 or take any action to terminate tenancy or evict members of the tenant association withholding payment of rent pursuant to this section during the one-month period in which the members of the tenant association are withholding rent in accordance with subdivision (d).

(f)At any time during the one-month period in which the tenants are withholding rent, the landlord may report to the tenants regarding the status of the grievances. If all grievances on the list have been resolved in the manner deemed satisfactory by the tenants, each tenant shall promptly deliver to the landlord the cashier’s check or money order purchased pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of this section.

(g)(1)Except as provided in subdivision (f) or in paragraph (2) of this subdivision, no later than seven days following the end of the one-month period in which the tenants withheld rent pursuant to subdivision (d), each tenant who exercised the right to withhold payment of rent shall tender the money order or cashier’s check held pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) to the landlord in payment of the rent previously withheld pursuant to this section, unless the tenant association and the landlord agree to an alternative arrangement. Rent paid within this seven-day period, or pursuant to an alternative arrangement agreed to by the tenant or the tenant association and the landlord, shall not be considered a late payment of rent and shall not be subject to any penalty or fee for the late payment of rent.

(2)Notwithstanding paragraph (1), if the landlord failed to strictly comply with any of the requirements specified in subdivisions (b) and (c), payment of the rent withheld by a member of a tenant association pursuant to this section shall be waived.

(h)A tenant association shall not initiate proceedings or withhold rent pursuant to this section more than two times per calendar year.

(i)This section does not preempt any ordinance, resolution, or other rule or regulation of a city or county establishing or utilizing a binding dispute resolution process for landlords and tenants that would impact the obligation to pay the withheld rent or otherwise provide greater protections for tenants’ rights than those provided under this section.

(j)This subdivision shall not be construed to limit any other lawful basis for withholding rent.


(a) Notwithstanding Section 1942.5, a landlord who retaliates against a tenant for exercising the tenant’s right to join, form, or participate in the activities of a tenant association, or who otherwise violates any provision of this chapter, shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for all of the following:

(1) The actual damages sustained by the tenant.
(2) Injunctive relief.
(3) Punitive damages in an amount of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each retaliatory act where the landlord has been guilty of fraud, oppression, or malice with respect to that act.
(b) In any action brought for damages for a violation of this chapter, the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party if either party requests attorney’s fees upon the initiation of the action.
(c) The remedies provided by this section shall be in addition to any other remedies provided by statutory or decisional law.
(d) In any action by a landlord to recover possession of a rental unit, the tenant may raise as an affirmative defense any violation of, or noncompliance with, this chapter.

(2) The Ongoing Vote

Here’s the ongoing vote on SB-529:

Unless I’m mistaken, all 13 Republican State Senators are among the No votes, along with Democrats Bill Dodd (Wine Country), Cathleen Galgiani (San Joaquin/Modesto), Jerry Hill (San Mateo), Melissa Hurtado (Fresno/Bakersfield) — and Bob Archuleta. Archuleta is, along with Linda Sanchez, one of the two state legislators who represent the least amount of Orange County.  Archuleta represents Buena Park as well as areas from Hacienda Heights and La Habra Heights to Bellflower and Lakewood and up to Commerce and Montebello.  He’s basically Los Angeles’s problem to solve, and he isn’t strictly needed for the 21 votes needed to pass the bill.  (Atkins will make it 19, Hurtado is people’s guess to make it 20 if it matters, and so they need just one more vote beyond that to pass it.)

The Democrats who haven’t voted are even more interesting.  One is Senate Leader Toni Atkins, who was traveling and has said that she’ll vote yes.  (A vote for the bill to be brought up for later reconsideration passed the day that this was published.)  Aside from her are four “moderate” (or, as I’d call them, “conservative” Senators: Steve Glazer (East Bay inland from San Francisco), Ben Hueso (Imperial County and San Diego County’s border area with Mexico), Richard Roth (our neighbor to the east in Riverside County) — and our own Tom Umberg.

Umberg represents 2/15 of Long Beach and 2/7 of Orange County, including half of Huntington Beach, a fifth of Anaheim, and all of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and a smattering of neighboring areas.  Needless to say, this include a huge numbers of renters.  This has become a steadily, if marginally, blue district at the State and Federal levels.  Aside from the ethics of the vote, Umberg has much more to gain from turning out grateful renters than from pissing off (generally already Republican) landlords.

We will, I expect, debate the policy choices behind the bill below.  Politically, though, this is just above a no-brainer — call it a “some-brainer” — for Umberg, unless perhaps he thinks that no one is watching.

Hate to break it to you, Senator, but people are watching.  Senator Umberg’s offices can be reached at (916) 651-4034 (in Sacramento) and (714) 741-1034 (in Grden Grove); if you want to visit his Garden Grove office (and for God’s sake be civil if you do), it’s at 10971 Garden Grove Blvd, Suite D, Garden Grove, CA 92843.  As usual, contacts from residents will be given more attention — and this is an instance where renters especially may want to make the call or take the trip.  This is the sort of thing that makes more cynical observers think that Democrats will always find a way not to accomplish the goals that we say we value, so Umberg’s decision is one that reflects upon the whole party.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)