More California Cities Are Outlawing Harassment by Landlords – KQED

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She said the slow rollout of rent relief, coupled with the eviction moratorium, meant frustrated landlords were looking for other ways to get their tenants to pay or leave.

But Singh said another reason more tenants in cities like Concord are pushing for these proposals is that, over the past decade, more people of color and especially lower-income renters have been moving away from expensive coastal cities in search of housing they can afford.

“As people get pushed out further and further, often inland,” she said, “they’re moving to places where they don’t have any protections, and they’re trying to organize in those places.”

Landlord advocates have been pushing back against these new local policies, saying they’re unnecessary since the state already has laws that prohibit landlords from harassing their tenants. Joshua Howard, with the California Apartment Association, criticized the local policies for being overly broad.

“What these ordinances do is they invite excessive penalties on landlords for making what could be considered an innocent mistake,” he said.

Three people stand in a row outdoors before a backdrop of lush, green trees. The woman in the center, a middle-aged Latina with curly, shoulder-length black hair and wireless glasses, wears a short-sleeved black cassock with a white clerical collar, and a bright stole of a warm yellow that turns to orange, then pink, then purple on both sides. She has her eyes closed and her arms held out, palms up, and appears to be speaking. On both sides of her stands a middle-aged women, one with short gray hair, the other with white gray hair. Both are dressed casually in short-sleeved tops. The woman to her right stands slightly behind her, looking at her as she speaks, sunglasses tucked into her rose T-shirt and a purse hanging from one shoulder. The woman on her left bows her head, hands behind her back, the white wires of headphones coming from both ears.
Rev. Leslie Taylor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Concord offers a prayer during a tenants rally and vigil at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on June 9, 2022. (Amaya Nicole Edwards/KQED)

The local ordinances expand the definition of what can be considered harassment beyond what’s already allowed in state law. In Concord, that might include behaviors like failing to accept rent payments, failing to make timely repairs, or entering the rental unit outside business hours unless requested to do so by the tenant.

They also add penalties — up to $10,000 in Los Angeles or $5,000 in Concord — for violating the city’s anti-harassment policy, on top of the $2,000 allowed under state law.

“So not only could the landlord be sued under state law, but they could also be sued now under the local law,” Howard said, blasting these policies as excessively punitive. “It creates a double penalty and a second mechanism to sue the owner and impose some significant fines, fees and penalties.”

Tenant organizers say those penalties are necessary to send a strong message to landlords and property managers that harassment won’t be tolerated.

“It really does empower tenants,” Singh said. “What they know instinctively is that this [behavior] is wrong, but for it to be wrong legally actually gives them a lot of strength.”

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