City Of Santa Monica Renter Protections

The City of Santa Monica has a long history of strong tenant protections.  Santa Monica’s rent control and eviction control laws were enacted in 1979.  And, almost a decade ago, eviction protections were extended to non-rent controlled properties.  Santa Monica has also adopted an anti-harassment law, amended its relocation assistance ordinance, and adopted many anti-discrimination laws to protect tenants.

Santa Monica Rent Control Law

What is the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

The Santa Monica Rent Control Law regulates how much a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent, and it prohibits eviction of tenants in rent-controlled units unless the landlord has a just-cause reason under the law.  

Can a tenant waive their rights under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law? 

No.  Any provision in a lease or rental agreement (whether verbal or written) that waives a tenant’s rights under this ordinance is against public policy and therefore void and not enforceable by the landlord.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1807.

What happens if a landlord fails to register their residential rental units with the city as required by the Rent Control Law?

All properties that are covered under the rent ceiling provisions of the ordinance are required to be registered with the City.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1803(q).  If the Rent Control Board determines that the landlord “willfully and knowingly failed to register a controlled rental unit”, the Board may authorize the tenant of the un-registered unit to withhold all or a portion of the rent until the landlord registers the property.  Id.  Also, any landlord that has failed, for any reason, to have properly registered their property cannot increase a tenant’s rent until the property is registered.  Id. 

Allowable Rent Increases Under The Rent Control Law

What units are protected under the rent ceiling protections under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

All residential rental units (including apartment buildings, mobile homes, mobile home spaces, trailers, and trailer spaces) in the City of Santa Monica that were built before April 10, 1979 are covered by the rent ceiling protections of the Santa Monica Rent Control Law, unless they fall under one of the exemptions below.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1801(c).

The Rent Control Law does not apply to the following units:

  • Rental units built after April 10, 1979 where an exemption has been granted by the Rent Board;
  • Rental units in owner-occupied properties of no more than three units (i.e. duplexes and triplexes) where an exemption has been granted by the Rent Board;
  • Most single-family homes and condominiums (see below);
  • Hotels, motels, inns, tourist homes, and boarding houses rented to guests for less than fourteen days;
  • Rental units in any hospital, convent, monastery, extended medical care facility, asylum, non-profit home for the aged, or dormitory owned and operated by an institution of higher education;
  • Rental units which a government unit, agency or authority owns, operates, manages, or in which governmentally subsidized tenants reside only if applicable federal or state law or administrative regulation specially exempt such units from municipal rent control; and
  • Units used for providing nonprofit childcare or other residential social services. Id.  
Are single-family homes and condominiums exempt from the rent-ceiling provisions of the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

In general, single-family homes and condominiums are exempt from city rent control under the state law known as Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.  However, tenants that live in a single-family home or condominium built before April 10, 1979 have rent-ceiling protections under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law if their tenancy began on or before January 1, 1996.  But, there are exceptions.  Single-family homes or condominiums that were built before April 10, 1979 and were vacant or not used for residential rental purposes on July 1, 1984 are automatically exempt from rent control. Owners must submit a declaration under penalty of perjury that states this to the Rent Board.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1815.  

Also, a single-family home or condominium that would be subject to rent control because it was built before April 10, 1979 and was rented on July 1, 1984 can be granted an exemption by the Rent Board if the owner proves that they have continuously lived in the home for at least two years as their principal place of residence after a voluntary vacancy by a tenant or a lawful eviction of the tenant.  Id.  The Board will only approve one exemption at a time under this section for an owner.  Id. 

Because the analysis can be complicated, tenants that reside in a single-family home or condominium built before April 10, 1979 should speak with a tenant attorney to determine if they have rent-ceiling protections under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law.

Do State of California Rent Control rent caps or Santa Monica Rent Control Law rent caps apply to your tenancy?

The rent-ceiling protections of the State of California Rent Control apply to all units in Santa Monica that are not covered by the Santa Monica Rent Control Law and that otherwise meet the requirements of state rent control.  In general, the Santa Monica Rent Control Law rent-ceiling protections apply to units built before April 10, 1979. 

If a unit is not covered by the Santa Monica Rent Control Law rent caps, it is covered by State of California Rent Control rent caps if the building was built more than fifteen years ago, as long as the unit meets all other requirements under state rent control.  If your Santa Monica building was built after April 10, 1979, or is a single-family home or condominium, click here to determine if your unit is covered by State of California Rent Control rent caps.

How much can my landlord raise my rent under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

Each unit covered under the rent ceiling protections has its own base rent, which is called the Maximum Allowable Rent (MAR).  Landlords may set the initial rent amount to market-rate for new tenancies that started on or after January 1, 1999. For tenancies that began before that date, the MAR was controlled by the Rent Board. 

The annual General Adjustment (GA), which is the allowable rent increase percentage announced by the Board annually, may be used to increase a tenant’s MAR with proper notice, which then gives the tenant their maximum lawful rent amount for the next twelve months.   Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1805.   The GA amount is based on the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the region.  Id.  The ordinance also has a dollar-amount ceiling.  Id.  Effective September 1, 2019, the GA is 2% with a maximum dollar-amount ceiling of $44 for rents that are $2,175 and above. 

Tenants should check the Rent Control Board website to find what their unit’s individual MAR is by typing in their address; tenants can also find what the annual GA increase is for any given year on the website.

How much notice is a tenant entitled to for a rent increase under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

For units covered under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law or under California State Rent Control, a landlord must provide tenants with a thirty-day advanced written notice for a rent increase.  Cal. Civ. Code § 827.  For units not covered under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law or California State Rent Control, where an increase is allowed of more than 10%, a ninety-day advanced written notice is required effective January 1, 2020.  Id.

When is my landlord prohibited from raising my rent under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

A Landlord cannot raise a tenant’s rent if the landlord failed to comply with any provision of the ordinance, including registration requirements.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1805(h).  A landlord also cannot raise a tenant’s rent if they have failed to comply with any state or local housing, health, or safety law.  Id.  Tenants may assert a landlord’s failure to comply with this section as an affirmative defense to an eviction for nonpayment of rent.  Id.

What if the landlord raises a tenant’s rent beyond the allowable amount under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

Both tenants and landlords may file petitions with the Rent Control Board for different reasons.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1805(c).  One reason a tenant can petition the Board is for review of a rent increase that is above the allowable amount.  Id.  After a hearing, the Board may adjust the tenant’s rent downward in accordance with the Rent Control Law.  Id.  The Board may refuse to hold a hearing and/or grant a rent adjustment if there was already a hearing and decision made with regard to maximum rent within the previous six months.  Id.

What petitions may a tenant file with the Santa Monica Rent Control Board?

In addition to a petition to review a rent increase as discussed above, tenants may also file a petition for a rent decrease for a landlord’s failure to repair and maintain the rental unit, and tenants may file a petition to reduce their rent where a housing amenity or service has been reduced or taken away.  A rent decrease awarded by the Rent Board will stay in effect until the necessary repairs have been made or amenities restored.

What does it mean to be a tenant not in occupancy under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

Santa Monica’s rent control laws are meant to keep rent at the controlled rate for tenants who are renting a unit and using it as their primary residence.  If a landlord believes a tenant is no longer living in a unit as their primary residence, the landlord can petition the Rent Board to do a one-time increase of a unit’s maximum allowable rent.  This large rent increase will be granted if it is found that the tenant is no longer a tenant in occupancy – i.e. the tenant is living somewhere else as their primary residence and using the Santa Monica unit as a secondary home.   Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations § 3304.  The amount of increase will be determined by the Board.  Id.

A tenant is not required to be physically present at all times in the unit to prove that they are a tenant in occupancy / using it as their primary residence, but the unit must be the tenant’s usual residence of return.  Id.  Some of the factors the Board will consider to make their determination are whether the tenant carries out basic living activities for an extended time at the unit, the tenant’s driver’s license or voter registration lists the unit as the tenant’s residence, the utility bills are mailed to the unit, all of the tenant’s personal belongings are in the unit, the tenant’s absence is due to military service, hospitalization, vacation, job travel, or other reasonable absence, and the tenant rents more than one unit at the property and the number of bedrooms exceeds the number of occupants.  Id.  Also, a tenant who is a student with at least a 60% class load or a tenant who is a faculty member or staff at a school in the Los Angeles area is a tenant in occupancy even if they have another usual residence of return.  Id. 

Tenants who believe that their landlord has raised or is attempting to raise their rent above the allowable legal amount should contact a tenant attorney to discuss their rights and options.  

Just Cause For Eviction Under The Rent Control Law (Rent-Controlled Units)

What units are protected under the eviction protections under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

All units subject to the rent-ceiling provisions of the ordinance also have eviction protection under the City’s Rent Control Law.  So, generally that means you have eviction protection if you live in a multi-unit building constructed before April 10, 1979.  If your unit is not rent-controlled, you may still have eviction protections under the Santa Monica Housing Policies.

What are the just-cause reasons for eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

A landlord must have a just-cause reason to terminate a tenancy covered by the Santa Monica Rent Control Law.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806.  If a landlord does not use one of these permissible reasons for eviction, they cannot force a tenant out of their home.

The following are the ten just-cause reasons for eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law:

  1. The tenant has failed to pay rent.
  2. The tenant continues to materially and substantially violate an obligation under the lease.  The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.
  3. The tenant is causing a nuisance or doing substantial damage to the unit.  The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.
  4. The tenant has been convicted of using or allowing the property to be used for illegal purposes.
  5. The tenant refuses to execute an extension or renewal of a lease or rental agreement that is materially the same as the previous lease or rental agreement.
  6. The tenant refuses to provide reasonable access under the law to the landlord.  The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.
  7. The tenant is not the original occupant, is not approved by the landlord, and is holding over after the original occupant vacates. 
  8. The landlord seeks to do an owner or relative move-in. The landlord or landlord’s children, parents, grandparents, siblings, or in-laws plan to move into the unit as their primary residence.
  9. The landlord seeks to demolish the property and has obtained all the permits to do so.
  10. Landlord seeks to withdraw the units from the rental market under Government Code 7060 (i.e. Ellis Act eviction) and has filed all the necessary document with the Rent Board.  Id.

If a tenant is evicted because of an owner-move in, demolition, or Ellis Act, they will be entitled to receive relocation assistance.

Is replacing my roommate with a new roommate a just-cause reason for eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

One of the just-cause reasons for eviction is the tenant’s substantial breach of their lease agreement.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806.  If a tenant sublets in violation of their lease, a landlord may have a just-cause reason to evict the tenant.  Id.  But simply replacing a roommate on a one-to-one basis is not a violation of the lease, even when the lease expressly prohibits subletting.  Id.  If a tenant wants to replace a roommate they must request so in writing to the landlord.  Id.  If the landlord fails to respond to the tenant in writing within fourteen days of receipt of the tenant’s written request, the tenant’s request shall be deemed approved by the landlord.  Id. And, the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold the right to sublease following written request by the tenant.  Id.

Can a tenant’s family be evicted after the tenant passes away or becomes incapacitated?

If a tenant dies or becomes incapacitated and is no longer in the unit, the tenant’s spouse, domestic partner, or children who have lived in the unit for at least one year prior to the tenant’s departure cannot be evicted based on the tenant no longer being present.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806(c).  For purposes of this section, a domestic partner must have a filed Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the City.  Id.

What are the requirements that a landlord must follow to evict a tenant through an owner move-in under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

The owner must be a natural person (not a corporation, partnership, limited partnership, association, or trust company) who owns at least 50% of the property, have good-faith intentions to move into the unit within thirty days after the tenant vacates, occupy the unit as their primary residence for at least one year, not already occupy one of the units on the property, and have no comparable vacant unit at the property to move into.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806(a)(8).

What happens if the landlord fails to move in within thirty days after the tenant vacates due to an owner move-in under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

If the owner fails to move in within the thirty day move-in requirement, they must offer the unit back to the evicted tenant and pay that tenant reasonable moving expenses.  Id. If the landlord has already paid the tenant their relocation assistance, the landlord may deduct the relocation amount from the money they owe the tenant for reasonable moving expenses related to re-occupying the unit.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 9002(f)(ii)

Am I protected from an owner move-in eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

A tenant cannot be evicted through an owner move-in if the tenant (1) has resided in the unit for at least five years and is (2) sixty-two years old or older, disabled, or is certified as being terminally ill.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806(a)(8).  However, a landlord (or relative) that also meets one of these criteria may evict a tenant that would have otherwise qualified for protection from eviction.  Id.

How much notice is a tenant entitled to for an owner move-in eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

If the tenant has resided in the unit for one or more years, they are entitled to a sixty days’ written notice, and if the tenant has resided in the unit for less than a year they are entitled to a thirty-days’ written notice per Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.1.

How much notice is a tenant entitled to for an Ellis Act eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

Tenants are entitled to a 120-days’ notice for an Ellis Act eviction.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations § 1602.  If the tenant is disabled under Cal. Gov’t. Code § 12955.3,

 or is sixty-two years older or older, and has lived in the unit for at least one year, the notice period may be extended to one year.  Id.  A tenant seeking an extension to one year must notify the landlord within sixty days of the filing of the notice of intent to withdraw the unit that they are entitled to the extension.  Id.

What happens in Santa Monica if the landlord returns a property to the rental market that was previously withdrawn through the Ellis Act?

If the landlord wants to re-rent the previously withdrawn property within two years of the date of withdrawal, the units must be offered back to the displaced tenants under the previous rental terms if the tenant notified the landlord in writing within thirty days of vacating of their desire to re-rent and provided a new mailing address.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations §1621

If the landlord wants to re-rent the property more than two years but less than ten years after withdrawal, they must file a notice with the Rent Board.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations §1622.  Once the Board receives the notice, it will send the displaced tenants notice of their right to re-occupy.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations §1623.  A tenant that would like to re-rent must notify the landlord within thirty days of the date that the landlord served the Board their notice of intent to re-rent.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations §1624.   If the landlord re-rents the unit after two years after withdrawal without notifying the Board first, or if they notify the Board but fail to offer the unit back to the tenant, the landlord will be liable to any displaced tenant for punitive damages.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Regulations §1626

Tenants who believe that their landlord has evicted or is attempting to evict without a just-cause reason to do so should contact a tenant attorney to discuss their legal options.

Just Cause For Eviction Under The Santa Monica Housing Policies (Non-Rent Controlled Units)

What units are protected under the just-cause for eviction protections under the City of Santa Monica Housing Policies?

City Measure RR, passed by Santa Monica voters in 2010, extended eviction protections to non-rent controlled units. Under the City of Santa Monica Housing Policies, all multi-unit buildings that are not protected under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law have just cause for eviction protections, regardless of their date of construction.  Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2304.

The following are exempt from eviction protections under the Santa Monica Housing Policies:

  • Hotels, motels, inns, tourist homes, and boarding houses rented to guests for less than fourteen days;
  • Rental units in any hospital, convent, monastery, extended medical care facility, asylum, non-profit home for the aged, or dormitory owned and operated by an institution of higher education;
  • Rental units which a government unit, agency or authority owns, operates, manages, or in which governmentally subsidized tenants reside only if applicable federal or state law or administrative regulation specially exempt such units from municipal rent control; and
  • Units used for providing nonprofit childcare or other residential social services.

Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2303.

Do State of California Rent Control eviction protections or the City of Santa Monica Housing Policies eviction protection apply to your tenancy?

The eviction protections of the State of California Rent Control apply to all units in Santa Monica that are not covered by the Santa Monica Rent Control Law or the Santa Monica Housing Policies and that otherwise meet the requirements of state rent control.  If your tenancy is not protected under the City’s Rent Control Law, which provides eviction protection for those units subject to the rent-ceiling provisions of the law, the next step is to determine if you are covered under the City’s Housing Policies.  In general, the Santa Monica Housing Policies eviction protections apply to all multi-unit buildings, regardless of when they were built. 

If a unit is not covered by the Santa Monica Rent Control Law or the Santa Monica Housing Policies eviction protections, it is covered by State of California Rent Control eviction protections if the building was built more than fifteen years ago and does not fall under one of the state rent control exemptions.  To determine if your unit is covered by the State of California Rent Control eviction protections, click here.

What are the just-cause reasons for eviction under the City of Santa Monica Housing Policies?

The eviction protections for units not under rent control are essentially the same as those for controlled units. The only major difference between the two is that units covered by Santa Monica Rent Control Law can only be withdrawn from the rental market either through a permitted demolition or through an Ellis Act eviction.

The just-cause reasons for eviction under the City’s Housing Policies are the following:

  1. The tenant has failed to pay rent.
  2. The tenant continues to materially and substantially violate an obligation under the lease. The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.

The allowance for a one-to-one roommate replacement is the same as under the Rent Control Law, and will not be considered a breach of a tenant’s lease. If a co-tenant on a lease moves out, the remaining may do a one-to-one roommate replacement. The tenant must request to replace their roommate in writing. If the landlord does not reply within fourteen days, the roommate is deemed approved. Landlords are prohibited from unreasonably denying a one-to-one replacement.

  • The tenant is causing a nuisance or doing substantial damage to the unit.  The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.
  • The tenant has been convicted of using or allowing the property to be used for illegal purposes.
  • The tenant refuses to execute an extension or renewal of a lease or rental agreement that is materially the same as the previous lease or rental agreement.
  • The tenant refuses to provide reasonable access under the law to the landlord.  The tenant must be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem before a landlord may serve a notice to perform or quit.
  • The tenant is not the original occupant, is not approved by the landlord, and is holding over after the original occupant vacates. 
  • The landlord seeks to do an owner or relative move-in. The landlord or landlord’s children, parents, grandparents, siblings, or in-laws plan to move into the unit as their primary residence.

The requirements and protections for an owner move-in is the same as under the Rent Control Law. The owner must be a natural person (not a corporation, partnership, limited partnership, association, or trust company) who owns at least 50% of the property, have good-faith intentions to move into the unit within thirty days after the tenant vacates, occupy the unit as their primary residence for at least one year, not already occupy one of the units on the property, and have no comparable vacant unit at the property to move into. If the owner fails to move in within the thirty day move-in requirement, they must offer the unit back to the evicted tenant and pay that tenant reasonable expenses.

 A tenant cannot be evicted through an owner move-in if the tenant (1) has resided in the unit for at least five years and is (2) sixty-two years old or older, disabled, or is certified as being terminally ill. However, a landlord (or relative) that also meets one of these criteria may evict a tenant that would have otherwise qualified for protection from eviction

  • The landlord seeks to withdraw all rental units in a building from the rental market. Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2304(c).
Can a tenant’s family be evicted after the tenant passes away or becomes incapacitated and leaves the unit?

If a tenant dies or becomes incapacitated and is no longer in the unit, the tenant’s spouse, domestic partner, or children who have lived in the unit for at least one year prior to the tenant’s departure cannot be evicted based on the tenant no longer being present.  Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2304(a). For purposes of this section, a domestic partner must have an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership already filed with the City.  Id.

Can a tenant’s protections under the Santa Monica Housing Policies be waived?

No.  Any provision in a lease or rental agreement (whether verbal or written) that waives a tenant’s rights under this ordinance is against public policy and shall be void.  Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2306.

Tenants who believe that their landlord has evicted or is attempting to evict without a just-cause reason to do so should contact a tenant attorney to discuss their legal options.

Eviction Protection For Teachers And Students

Are there special eviction protections in the City of  Santa Monica for teachers and for minor children during the school year?

Any tenant who resides in a unit covered under either the Santa Monica Rent Control Law or the Santa Monica Housing Policies that is a student under the age of eighteen or any tenant that works at a public, private, or parochial school (grades K-12) in Santa Monica, and who has lived in the unit for a year or more may not be evicted through one of the no-fault eviction reasons (owner move-in, demolition, Ellis Act) if the date of termination of their tenancy falls during the school year.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.27.050.

The Santa Monica Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance

What is the Santa Monica Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance?

The ordinance provides for relocation assistance to be paid by landlords to tenants that are displaced from any unit that has eviction protection either under the City’s Rent Control Law or the City’s Housing Policies.  

When is a tenant eligible to receive relocation payments under the Santa Monica Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance?

Permanent Displacement Through a No-Fault Eviction:

Tenants who are permanently displaced due to a no-fault eviction such as an owner move-in, withdrawal of the property from the rental market, demolition, and Ellis Act eviction are entitled to relocation benefits.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.36.020

Permanent Displacement Through a Rent Increase in an Owner-Occupied Duplex or Triplex:

If a landlord moves into their duplex or triplex, they may seek an exemption from the Rent Control Law for their entire building.  Id.   The owner must a be a person, not a corporation, and own at least 50% of the property and reside in the unit as their primary residence.  Id.  The exemption is not automatic and must be approved by the Rent Board.  Once approved, the existing tenants in the building will no longer be covered under the ordinance.  Id.  If the owner at any time afterward raises the rent above the allowable amount under the ordinance, tenants will be entitled to relocation benefits if they are unable to pay the increased amount and choose to leave.  Id.  Once the owner moves out, the building is no longer exempt from the ordinance.  Id.

Temporary Displacement:

Tenants may also be eligible for relocation assistance if they are temporarily displaced. Tenants are entitled to relocation payments when they must vacate a unit because it has been rendered uninhabitable, needs substantial repairs, or has an order to vacate from a government agency.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.36.100.

What are the relocation assistance amounts in Santa Monica for a tenant that is permanently displaced?

Relocation assistance is based on the number of bedrooms the unit has and not on the number of tenants residing in the unit.  Effective July 1, 2019, the relocation amount for a studio apartment is $15,850, a one-bedroom is $21,800, and a unit with two or more bedrooms is $30,350.  These fees are increased for tenant households that contain a person that is sixty-two years old or older, or a disabled person, or a minor child.  In those circumstances, the fee is increased to $16,555 for a studio apartment, $23,300 for a one-bedroom, and $32,350 for two or more bedrooms.  Because relocation assistance amounts change yearly, a tenant entitled to relocation assistance should check the Santa Monica Rent Control Board website to learn the most updated relocation amounts they are owed. 

What are the relocation assistance amounts in Santa Monica for a tenant that is temporarily displaced?

The amount of compensation for a temporary displacement a tenant is entitled to depends on how long the tenant is displaced.  If a tenant must leave their unit for thirty days or less, the landlord may choose to place the tenant in a comparable unit or place the tenant in a hotel.  If the tenant is placed in a hotel, they are entitled to a per day hotel payment, plus expenses for meals, laundry, and pet boarding.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.36.100.  The per day amounts that have been set by the City Council are the following:

  • $302 per day for a hotel room
  • $32 per day for meals
  • $1 per day for laundry
  • $32 per day for cat boarding, and $57 per day for dog boarding

If the tenant must leave their unit for more than thirty days, the landlord may either pay for a comparable rental unit or pay for the tenant’s stay at a hotel and associated expenses in the amounts that are listed above.  Id.  Relocation assistance must be pre-paid on a weekly basis.  Id.  If the landlord chooses to pay for the tenant’s temporary replacement rental, the landlord shall be responsible for all costs associated with the unit including rent, even if it is more than the tenant’s existing unit.  Id.

Regardless of the amount of time that tenants must temporarily vacate their unit, they must still continue to pay rent.  Id.

Santa Monica Tenant Harassment Ordinance

The City of Santa Monica has made it illegal for landlords to harass their tenants with the intent of forcing them out of their rent-controlled unit.

What units are covered under the Santa Monica Tenant Harassment Ordinance?

All residential rental units in the City of Santa Monica are protected under this ordinance, regardless of when they were constructed.  This includes single-family homes or rooms rented in a single-family home, apartment buildings, condominiums, mobile homes, and hotels, motels, or rooming houses.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.56.010

What is considered harassment under the Santa Monica Tenant Harassment Ordinance?

Santa Monica has outlawed certain actions by landlords that are done in bad faith and intended to force tenants out of their units.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.56.020

Landlords are prohibited from doing any of the following:

  • Taking away services provided in the lease/rental agreement or by state or local housing, health, or safety laws;
  • Abusing or misusing the right to enter the tenant’s unit;
  • Failing to make repairs and failing to exercise due diligence in completing repairs and maintenance once undertaken;
  • Abusing the tenant with words which are offensive and inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction;
  • Influencing or attempting to influence a tenant to vacate a rental housing unit through fraud, intimidation or coercion;
  • Threatening the tenant, by word or gesture, with physical harm;
  • Discriminating against the tenant based on a protected characteristic such as race, gender, sexual preference, sexual orientation, ethnic background, nationality, religion, age, parenthood, marriage, pregnancy, disability, AIDS, or occupancy by a minor child;
  • Giving a three-day notice or other eviction notice based on false charges, which means that the landlord has no reasonable cause to believe the charges are true;
  • Interfering with a tenant’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of their unit;
  • Refusing to acknowledge receipt of a rent payment; and
  • Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy, including, but not limited to, entering or photographing portions of a rental housing unit.  Id.
Are there rules that a landlord must follow to offer a tenant a buyout under the Santa Monica Tenant Harassment Ordinance?

Prior to making a buyout offer, the landlord shall provide each tenant in the rental unit a written disclosure that includes a statement that the tenant has a right not to enter into a buyout, may choose to consult with an attorney, may rescind the buyout agreement for up to thirty days after it is fully executed, and that the tenant may visit the Rent Board for information about other buyout agreements in the tenant’s neighborhood.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.56.050

The ordinance requires specific information and language to be included in all buyout agreements, and the buyout agreement must be filed with the Rent Control Board no later than sixty days after executing the agreement.  Id.

Tenants that have been approached by their landlord with a buyout offer should contact a tenant lawyer to discuss their options.

Santa Monica Anti-Discrimination Laws

The City of Santa Monica has several laws in place to protect its citizens from discrimination in housing and real estate transactions.  Santa Monica has enacted the Housing Anti-discrimination Code, the Discrimination On the Basis Of Sexual Orientation or Domestic Partnership law, and the Discrimination On the Basis Of AIDS law.

What units are covered under the Santa Monica Housing Anti-Discrimination Code?

All residential rental units are covered under this law except for any housing accommodations operated exclusively for people that are 62 years old or older, nursing homes, convalescent homes, and retirement homes.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.28.040

What is prohibited under the Santa Monica Housing Anti-Discrimination Code?

It is illegal in the Santa Monica for a landlord to do or attempt to do any of the following:

  • Refuse to rent to or to allow access to common areas or facilities, or to serve a notice of termination of tenancy or bring an eviction lawsuit, or to deny or withhold housing services to any person on the basis of disability (under Cal. Gov’t. Code § 12926), age, source of income (e.g. Section 8 voucher), parenthood, pregnancy, or the potential or actual occupancy of a child under the age of eighteen years old.
  • Represent to a person because of their disability, age, source of income, parenthood, pregnancy, or the potential or actual occupancy of a child under the age of eighteen years old that a rental unit is not available to rent.
  • Advertise a unit for rent that in any way expresses a preference, limits, or discriminates against a person based on disability, age, source of income, parenthood, pregnancy, or the potential or actual occupancy of a child under the age of eighteen years old.
  • Include in a rental agreement a clause that occupancy is dependent on the tenant not remaining childless.
  • Threaten to evict or commence eviction based on a breach of the lease regarding number of occupants allowed based on a tenant’s marriage, as long as the presence of the spouse or the spouse and their children do not violate any occupancy laws.
  • Threaten to evict or commence eviction based on a breach of the lease regarding number of occupants allowed based on a birth, adoption, or legal change in custody of a child, as long as the presence of the child does not violate any occupancy laws.
  • Refuse to make a reasonable accommodation that may be necessary to provide a disabled tenant equal opportunity to use and enjoy the property.
  • With some exceptions, refuse to make a reasonable accommodation to make the property accessible by persons with a disability.

Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.28.030.

What units are covered under the Santa Monica Discrimination On the Basis Of Sexual Orientation Or Domestic Partnership law?

All units in Santa Monica are covered under this law except for owner-occupied units where the tenant and owner share a kitchen or bathroom, and the property does not have more than three units.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.40.040

What is the Santa Monica Discrimination On the Basis Of Sexual Orientation Or Domestic Partnership law?

It is illegal in Santa Monica to discriminate against a person in housing and real estate transactions based upon a person’s sexual orientation or domestic partnership.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.40.010.  In general, it is unlawful to refuse to rent, restrict housing facilities, make repairs or improvements, and advertise discriminating based on sexual orientation.  Id.  Also, threatening or carrying out an eviction for breach of lease due to a domestic partnership is prohibited.  Id. 

What units are covered under the Santa Monica Discrimination On The Basis Of AIDS law?

All units in Santa Monica are covered under this law except for owner-occupied units where the tenant and owner share a kitchen or bathroom.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.40.

What is the Santa Monica Discrimination On The Basis Of AIDS law?

It is illegal in Santa Monica to discriminate against a person in housing and real estate transactions based upon a person having Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.010.  In general, it is unlawful to refuse to rent to such a tenant, or refuse to make repairs or improvements, or to restrict housing facilities.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.040.  The law also prohibits advertisements for housing that limits or discriminates against persons with AIDS.  Id. 

Penalties For A Santa Monica Landlord Who Violates The Law

Can a tenant sue their landlord for wrongful eviction under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law?

If the landlord or landlord’s agent recovers possession of a covered unit by breaking any of the laws outlined in the Rent Control Law, the landlord can be liable to the tenant for wrongful eviction.  Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1806(f).   In a civil action for wrongful eviction, a tenant can sue for actual and punitive damages, including damages for emotional distress.  Id.  The tenant or the Rent Control Board may also seek injunctive relief and money damages.   Id.  The winning party in a wrongful eviction lawsuit is entitled to recover court costs and reasonable attorney fees.  Id. 

Can a tenant sue their landlord for wrongful eviction under the Santa Monica Housing Policies?

If the landlord or landlord’s agent recovers possession of a covered unit by breaking any of the laws outlined in the Santa Monica Housing Policies, the landlord can be liable to the tenant for wrongful eviction.  Santa Monica, Cal., Housing Policies § 2308.  A tenant can sue for wrongful eviction following any attempt to recover possession of a unit in violation of the ordinance.  In such a lawsuit, the landlord is liable to the tenant for actual and punitive damages, including damages for emotional distress.  Id.  The tenant or the Rent Control Board can also seek injunctive relief and money damages.   Id.  The prevailing party in an action for wrongful eviction shall recover costs and reasonable attorney fees.  Id. 

Can a tenant sue their landlord under the Santa Monica Rent Control Law for overcharging rent?

If a landlord demands, accepts, receives, or retains any payment of rent in excess of the maximum lawful rent, the tenant can sue for damages in the amount of the payment demanded, accepted, received, or retained that exceeds the maximum lawful rent, plus a penalty of triple (treble) that amount if the landlord acted “willfully or with oppression, fraud or malice”.   Santa Monica, Cal., Rent Control Law § 1809.  The landlord will also have to pay the tenant’s reasonable attorney fees and costs once the tenant wins in court.  Id.  Instead of filing a lawsuit, a tenant may file an administrative complaint with the Rent Control Board.  Id.  Tenants should speak to a tenant attorney to determine whether an administrative action or a lawsuit is the best option.

Instead of bringing a civil action against their landlord, a tenant may file an administrative complaint with the Rent Board.  Id.  The Board will determine the rules and regulations for a hearing on the matter and come to a final decision within 120 days of the tenant filing their complaint.  Id.  If a landlord is found to be in violation of the rent control laws they will be liable for damages to the tenant in the amount of the unlawful increase, plus up to $500 for costs and expenses the tenant incurred as a result of bringing the complaint.  Id.  The tenant may deduct their damage award from future rent payments as determined by the Board.  Id.  If a tenant was authorized by the Board to withhold rent under this section but the tenant vacates the property, the landlord will be liable to pay the tenant the amount of rent they could have withheld.  Id.

If a tenant does not bring a civil action or administrative complaint within 120 days from the date of the occurrence of the violation, the Rent Board may settle the claim or bring an action on their own on behalf of the tenant.  Id.  The tenant will be barred from bringing an action against the landlord for the same violation for which the Board has made a settlement or brought action against.   Id.  If the Board settles the claim, the Board will be entitled to deduct the cost it incurred from the tenant’s settlement amount.  Id.  

Can a tenant sue their landlord for violating the Santa Monica Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance?

Tenants may file a lawsuit for an injunction or damages, or both, against a landlord that fails to pay relocation benefits that are required under the ordinance.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.36.090.  The tenant may seek damages in the amount of the relocation fee, a civil penalty in the amount of $500, and reasonable attorney fees and costs as determined by the court.  The court may also award punitive damages.  Id.

The City of Santa Monica may choose to pay the relocation benefits to tenants in the landlord’s place if the landlord fails to do so.  The City can then pursue the landlord for reimbursement.  Id. 

Can a tenant sue their landlord for violating the Santa Monica Tenant Harassment Ordinance?

Any person convicted of violating this ordinance will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for six months, or both.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code §4.56.040

Any person, including the City, may bring a lawsuit as well for a landlord’s violations.  Id

Tenants may file a lawsuit for an injunction or for money, or both, against a landlord that violates the Tenant Harassment Ordinance.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code §4.56.040.  Any person who violates or aids another person in violating the ordinance is liable for actual damages suffered by the tenant or for statutory damages up to $10,000, whichever is greater, and must pay the tenant’s attorney fees and costs, as determined by the court.  Id.  Plus, a landlord shall be liable for an additional civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each offense committed against a person who is disabled or aged sixty-five or over. Id.  The court may also award punitive damages.  Id.

Can a tenant sue their landlord for violating the Santa Monica Housing Anti-Discrimination Code?

Any person, including the City may bring a lawsuit for violation of this code.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code §4.56.060.  A person that violates or aides or incites another person to violate this code will be liable for actual damages suffered or for statutory damages up to $10,000, whichever is greater, and shall be liable for attorney fees and costs as may be determined by the court.  Id

Can a tenant sue their landlord for violating the Santa Monica Discrimination On The Basis Of Sexual Orientation Or Domestic Partnership law?

Tenants can sue their landlord for violating this law.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.40.090.  A tenant, or the City, may also seek an injunction.  Id.  A person found in violation of this section will be liable for the tenant’s actual damages, costs, attorney fees, and an additional award between $200 to $400.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.40.080.  The court may also award punitive damages.  Id.

Actions under this law must be brought within one year of the alleged discriminatory act.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.40.100.

Can a tenant sue their landlord for violating the Santa Monica Discrimination On The Basis Of AIDS law?

Tenants can sue a landlord who has violated this law.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.090.  A tenant, or the City, may also seek an injunction.  Id.  A person found in violation of this section will be liable for the tenant’s actual damages, costs, attorney fees, and an additional award between $200 to $400.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.090.  The court may also award punitive damages.  Id.

Actions under this law must be brought within one year of the alleged discriminatory act.  Santa Monica, Cal. Mun. Code § 4.52.100.

Tenants who believe their landlord has violated the City of Santa Monica Rent Control Law, Housing Policies, or any other of the City’s laws meant to protect renters should call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP to speak with a tenant attorney.

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