After five months of lively debate between tenants and landlords at City Hall over mass evictions, the Burbank City Council has adopted the Burbank Tenant Protection Urgency Ordinance Tuesday.
The ordinance introduces heightened protections for no-fault evictions related to substantial remodels, a very specific loophole that city leaders intended to address and one that is to blame for dozens of evictions in Burbank.
The new city policy will require landlords to obtain permits for demolition or substantial remodels and provide three months of relocation assistance to tenants impacted by a no-fault, just cause eviction specifically on grounds of substantial remodels.
The issue came before the City Council after dozens of tenants spoke at a meeting in April, detailing mass evictions that had taken place. The news took the Council by surprise and they took action to put the matter on the agenda for a later meeting.
In the following months, tenants, with the aid of the Burbank Tenants Union, spoke out during public comments at almost every City Council meeting, and held a rally ahead of a study session, demanding that the Council close the loophole in Assembly Bill 1482, which only requires that landlords show an intent to renovate a property and provide one month of renter relocation.
Previously, the city had no method to enforce that landlords actually carry out such renovations. Because of this, it was possible for landlords to cite “intent to renovate” on eviction notices without having legitimate plans to renovate their property.
The new ordinance addresses this loophole, but the Burbank Tenants Union says it doesn’t do enough to solve the problem.
“The ordinance does not go far enough. It does not close the ‘renoviction loophole,’ it only gives it an extra step. The other issue is with the three times current rent for relocation. If you start doing the math on that, it’s insufficient for those who are being asked to leave their home,” said Jo Pimienta, an activist with the BTU.
Pimienta added that despite receiving one month of rent, one tenant, John Fischer, still had to pay $8,000 to move to a new rental.
“If this happens to [a tenant] in the next 12 months … they will be paying out of pocket at no fault of their own,” Pimienta added.
BTU members expressed that they would accept any step in the direction of tenant protections, as many tenants are actively dealing with eviction notices, but they hope that further action will be taken to further address the loophole in AB 1482.
The new ordinance still allows renovation evictions to take place, but simply requires the landlords to prove through the city’s permitting process that they are taking steps to carry out renovations.
This means that Burbank will continue to be a hotspot for housing flippers who have flocked there to purchase housing to be flipped and then rented at significantly higher rent costs to tenants, said Councilwoman Nikki Perez, who has worked extensively with housing nonprofits in her career.
“We’ve seen renovictions. We are a target for housing flippers,” said Perez. “But our real mom and pops are not thinking about renovictions. They don’t have the means to do it.”
Organizations such as the California Association of Realtors and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, or AAGLA, have come out fervently opposed to the ordinance, saying that mom-and-pop landlords will no longer be able to afford to continue business in Burbank.
“Rental housing providers should not be expected to provide more financial assistance than the city itself is willing to provide,” said Max Sherman, associate director of government affairs at AAGLA.
Much of the debate among Council members was whether the ordinance would harm mom-and-pop landlords.
DEMOLITION AND SUBSTANTIAL REMODEL REQUIREMENTS
The key provision of the ordinance is the establishment of requirements for just cause evictions with the intent to demolish or substantially remodel a property. The process for the landlord or property owner includes:
1. Securing building permits (for a substantial remodel), demolition permits (for a demolition), and/or any required abatement permits;
2. Plan check submittal to the city’s Building Division, if required;
3. Providing copies of the building, demolition, and/or hazardous material abatement permit(s) to tenant;
4. Providing the tenant with a written, detailed account of the scope of work, 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.
Furthermore, effective Tuesday and thereafter, tenants receiving “no-fault, just cause” notices to vacate for substantial remodel, as outlined in the ordinance, are entitled to relocation assistance in the amount of three months of the tenant’s current rent, based on the rent in effect when the notice was issued.
First published in the September 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.