City expands benefits for evicted tenants

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Renters facing no-fault evictions will receive up to 50 percent more money from their landlords to relocate.

At its Jan. 8 meeting, City Council increased the amount landlords must pay their tenants if they evict them under the Ellis Act or if the landlord or a family member moves into the unit. The increase is the first since 2011. It also raised the per diem evicted tenants get to temporarily stay in hotels while they find new housing from $165 to $292 per day.

The amount evicted tenants are entitled to depends on how many bedrooms their unit had and whether they are older than 62 or disabled. A typical studio tenant previously received $9,950 and will now receive $15,020, while a one bedroom tenant got $15,300 and will now get $20,705. Landlords had to pay tenants who rented units with two or more bedrooms $20,750 and will now pay $28,810.

Elderly and disabled tenants will receive about $1,000 to $2,000 more at each step.

Across the board, the permanent relocation benefits now incorporate the two months rent landlords often ask for from a new tenant, a security deposit, the costs of disconnecting and reconnecting utilities, packing and moving, storage for three months and packing supplies.

Rent Control Board chair Anastasia Foster said the benefits tenants have received since 2011 increased each year with inflation but did not adequately cover all the costs associated with moving.

‘The new amounts reflect actual costs and what we’ve been hearing from tenants for years that (the benefits) have been insufficient to cover the costs of a sudden, expected move,” she said. “This will hopefully go a long way to alleviating some of that pain.”

Foster said the new amounts don’t take a few important costs into account, however.

“Packing up an apartment you’ve lived in for ten years with two kids and a dog can’t be done in a weekend, and you can’t get everything set up in a new place in a weekend either,” she said. “People inevitably have to take time off from work and that lack of compensation is unaccounted for.”

Tenants with children also usually have to pay for childcare during the moving process, Foster added.

While the benefits hike will provide tenants with a stronger safety net, landlords say providing relocation assistance to tenants can be prohibitively expensive.

Property owners successfully sued San Francisco in 2017 after the city ordered landlords evicting tenants under the Ellis Act to pay up them up to $50,000. A judge ruled such a high amount “placed a prohibitive price on a landlord’s right to exit the rental market” in violation of the Ellis Act.

The upper limit on Santa Monica’s permanent relocation benefits is now $30,682 for two bedroom households with an elderly or disabled member.

“If all the landlords in Santa Monica announced they were raising rents” at the same rate that City Council raised relocation benefits, an Apartments Association of Greater Los Angeles representative said at Council’s Jan. 8 meeting, “there would be riots in the streets.”

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