The City of Richmond recently enacted the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance to protect tenants from harassment by their landlord.  Landlord harassment is persistent, often aggressive, menacing behavior meant to disrupt a tenant’s legal right to quiet enjoyment of their home and to force the tenant to move out.  The ordinance also provides tenants with the ability to sue their landlord for harassment.

Richmond tenants should also be aware that the city has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance that regulates how much a tenant’s rent can be raised annually and prohibits eviction unless the landlord has a just-cause reason under the law. 

What notices are landlords required to provide tenants under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?

Landlords must provide all tenants with a written notice regarding the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.080.  The notice must be provided to new tenants at the beginning of their tenancy and provided to existing tenants within thirty days of the law’s effective date.  Id.  The notice must also be posted in an interior common area.  Id.

Can a tenant waive their rights under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?

No. Terms in a lease or rental agreement, whether verbal or written, that waive or modify tenants’ rights under the ordinance are against public policy and void.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.100.

Am I protected under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?

The ordinance applies to all rental units in the City of Richmond unless a unit falls under one of the below exemptions.   Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.030.

The following properties are exempt from the ordinance:

  1. Units in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and health facilities.
  2. Units in nonprofit facilities that provide short-term treatment, assistance, or therapy for alcohol, drug, or other substance abuse and the client has been informed in writing of the temporary nature of the housing at the beginning of their tenancy.
  3. Units in nonprofit facilities that help homeless persons obtain independent living skills if the tenancy is restricted to no more than twenty-four months and the client has been informed in writing of the temporary nature of the housing at the beginning of their tenancy.
  4. Units in hotels and motels where the stay is less than thirty days.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.050.

What types of activities are prohibited under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?

Landlords, their employees, and any person acting as the agent of the landlord are prohibited from doing any of the following in bad faith:

  1. Interrupt, terminate, or fail to provide housing services or threaten to interrupt, terminate, or fail to provide housing services required by a rental agreement or by state, county or local housing health or safety laws.  A landlord cannot cut off a tenant’s utility services such as water, heat, electricity, gas, telephone, cable, internet, garbage and recycling services, or sewage services.  Landlords also cannot remove doors or windows without replacing them in a reasonable amount of time.  And landlords cannot deny reasonable access of the unit to the tenant.
  2. Fail to perform repairs or threaten to fail to perform repairs or maintenance required by a rental agreement or by state, county or local housing, health, or safety laws.
  3. Fail to exercise due diligence in completing repairs or maintenance once undertaken or fail to follow appropriate industry repair containment or remediation protocols designed to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, mold, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health effects.
  4. Abuse the right to enter the unit, including entering or photographing portions of the unit that are beyond the scope of a lawful entry or inspection.
  5. Remove a tenant’s personal property from the unit without the prior written consent of the tenant.
  6. Influence or attempt to influence a tenant to vacate a unit through fraud, intimidation, or coercion, including threatening to report a tenant or other person associated with the tenant to a government agency based on immigration status.
  7. Offer payments to a tenant to vacate more than once in six months after the tenant has notified the landlord in writing the tenant does not want to receive further offers.
  8. Attempt to coerce a tenant to vacate with offer(s) of payments to vacate that are accompanied with threats or intimidation.      
  9. Threaten the tenant or their guests by word, gesture, or with physical harm. 
  10. Interfere with a tenant’s right to quiet use or enjoyment of the unit.
  11. Discriminate against a tenant based on actual or perceived race, gender, sexual preference, sexual orientation, ethnic background, nationality, place of birth, immigration or citizenship status, religion, age, parenthood, marriage, pregnancy, disability, AIDS, or occupancy by a minor child.
  12. Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of a tenant’s lawful rent payment.
  13. Refuse to cash a rent payment for more than thirty days.
  14. Interfere with a tenant’s right to privacy or request information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy, such as information pertaining to a tenant’s residency, citizenship status, or social security number.
  15. Misrepresent to a tenant that they are required to vacate a rental unit.
  16. Force a resident of a hotel or motel to move rooms every few weeks to avoid the resident from claiming they are a tenant.
  17. Require a tenant to agree to materially new terms or to a new rental agreement, unless the proposed changes are allowed or required by local, state, or federal law, or the change in the terms of the tenancy was accepted in writing by the tenant after receipt of written notice from the landlord that the tenant does not have to accept the new terms and the change is not contrary to local, state, or federal law.
  18. Any other repeated acts or omissions that substantially interfere with or disturb a tenant’s peace or quiet, and that cause, are likely to cause, or are committed with the objective to cause the tenant to vacate or waive their rights.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.060.

Am I protected from retaliation by my landlord under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance? 

Yes.  Retaliation by landlords against tenants exercising their rights under the ordinance is prohibited.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.070.

Can my landlord take away any of my amenities, such as parking, under the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance? 

No.  A landlord cannot permanently remove amenities that are part of your tenancy unless there is good cause to do so.   Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.090.  Amenities include garage facilities, parking facilities, driveways, storage spaces, laundry rooms, decks, patios, backyards, gardens, kitchen facilities, and bathroom or lobbies in residential hotels.  Id. 

Good cause under this section includes the following:

  1. Removal required by federal, state, or local law.
  2. Removal of a non-rent-controlled tenant’s amenity when the landlord provides written notice of the removal, and the tenant accepts the removal.
  3. Removal of a rent-controlled tenant’s amenity when approved by the rent board.
  4. Removal of a balcony when safety requires removal, and the landlord has obtained necessary permits.  Id.

A temporary removal of a housing services is allowed to perform necessary work when the landlord provides proper written notice of the temporary removal and has obtained all required permits.  Id. 

Can I sue my landlord for violation of the City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance? 

Yes, tenants may sue their landlord for violation of the ordinance for money damages, for an injunction to stop the harassment, or for both.  Richmond, Cal., Mun. Code § 11.103.110.  A landlord who violates the ordinance or any person who aids or incites another person to violate the ordinance is liable for each and every offense of not less than three times (treble) the tenant’s actual damages, including damages for mental or emotional distress, or $1,000, whichever is greater. Id.   Damages for mental or emotional distress is tripled (trebled) if the landlord acted in knowing violation of or reckless disregard of the law.  Id.   

A landlord found to have violated the ordinance shall also be liable for the tenant’s attorney fees and costs as determined by the court.  Id.  A landlord shall be entitled to an award of attorney fees only if it is determined by the court that the tenant’s action was without merit and brought in bad faith.  Id. 

Further, any person who violates, aids, or incites another person to violate the law is liable for a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each offense committed against a person who is disabled (within the meaning of California Government Code section 12926, et seq.) or who is 65 years old or older.  Id.  The court may also award punitive damages to any plaintiff.  Id. 

Tenants in the City of Richmond who are being harassed by their landlord in violation of the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance should call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP at (415) 504-2165 to speak with a tenant attorney about their rights and options to stop the harassment.