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As state rent cap looms, Redwood City council passes emergency ordinance protecting renters

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An urgency ordinance passed by the Redwood City Council Monday aims to protect renters from evictions in the wake of state rent cap legislation that doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1.

The ordinance restricts landlords from increasing rents by more than 9 percent, or 5 percent plus the Consumer Price Index, until State Assembly Bill 1482 goes into effect. It also prohibits owners from terminating a tenancy without just cause if the tenant has lived in a unit for 12 months or more.

AB 1482, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8, sets a limit on annual rent increases statewide to 5 percent plus cost of living inflation, or 10 percent, whichever is lower. When it takes effect in January, the bill will also prohibit evictions without just cause. If rents were increased after March 15, the rent on Jan. 1 is reduced to the rent as of March 15, plus the maximum increase allowed by AB 1482.

Under the state law, single family homes or condominiums where the owner is not a real estate investment trust, corporation or limited liability where at least one member is a corporation, are exempted from the law, along with duplexes where the owner occupies one of the units.

While the new law is facing legal challenges, Redwood City Council became the first San Mateo County city to pass an emergency ordinance, citing concerns that “bad actor” landlords aim to evict tenants prior to the state law’s effective date on Jan. 1.

“The goal of the urgency ordinance is to keep tenants in their homes, and to reduce the impacts of displacement in our community,” the city stated. “The City Council saw an urgent need to protect renters due to a rise in tenant complaints about rent hikes and evictions.”

Whether or not they believe in rent control policies, Council members expressed the need for an urgency ordinance to ensure renters are not targeted for eviction by landlords.

“I’m opposed to rent control,” Councilmember Shelly Masur said. “However, with the actions that have been taken since the passage of AB 1482, I don’t see any option other than to act with urgency.”

Councilmember Giselle Hale called the pace at which the urgency ordinance came together “unprecedented in the government space.”

“The state did not prepare for this,” she said. “And cities are left to repair the job. But despite its shortcomings, we have to act.”

Councilmember Diane Howard said she felt the state law’s rent cap is reasonable and fair and that Gov. Newsom’s “intent is good.”

“He’s trying to help people stay in their homes,” she said.

The city is providing outreach to tenants, informing them of their rights under the new laws and providing legal resources here.