Redwood City council approves renters protections, including relocation assistance

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The Redwood City Council voted unanimously to pass two ordinances Monday aiming to provide protections for renters in an increasingly costly housing market, including one that requires landlords owning rental properties with more than three units to offer a minimum 1-year lease term to tenants.

A second ordinance requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to eligible displaced tenants that includes the cash equivalent of three month’s rent, the security deposit, and a 60-day subscription to a rental agency service.

Revised after city staff discussions with the California Realtors Association and San Mateo County Association of Realtors, the two ordinances passed council despite mixed reviews by dozens of community members who spoke during public comment both in favor and against.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the ordinances were implemented to respond to increasing rents both in Redwood City and on the Peninsula, according to city staff.

The minimum 1-year lease term rule applies to properties with three or more units. Landlords must offer a minimum 1-year lease term to tenants as of Jan. 1, 2019. The ordinance prohibits rent increases during that lease term, but provides leeway for a renter and landlord to agree in writing upon a term of less than one year.

The relocation assistance ordinance applies only to properties with five units. The new law requires landlords wanting to evict tenants before the 12 month lease is up to provide renter money equal to three months rent, except in cases such as when renters fail to pay rent.

Landlords also won’t have to pay relocation fees when the lease agreement ends.

Certain tenants called “special circumstance households” will receive the cash equivalent of four month’s rent rather than three in cases of displacement.

Complaints by opponents of the new rules described the ordinances as confusing, convoluted and a detrimental invasion of the relationship between landlords and renters.

Some argued they push the city closer to a rent control requiring a costly, bureaucratic rent board – a position denied by several elected officials.

“We are not going down the road of a rent control board,” Mayor Ian Bain said.

The ordinances will be revisited a year after they are enacted in order to review whether they’ve had any unintended consequences.