Just cause for eviction ordinance sets new requirement, helps data collection
In a quest for more data about the Marin County housing market, the County of Marin has created an online registry for landlords to share rental data. Affected landlords are required to register their rental units by June 1, 2019, and County staff is hosting three events in late May to help with registration.
In December 2018, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot ordinance requiring landlords to provide legal reason – a just cause – before evicting a renter within the unincorporated areas of Marin. The ordinance, which went into effect January 2019, applies to properties with three or more rental units and does not limit allowable rent increases.
“In response to calls from the public and the Board for more accurate and timelier data on the local housing market, a data collection provision was part of the ordinance,” said Leelee Thomas, Planning Manager for the Marin County Community Development Agency. “We rely on private property owners for rental housing stock, but there’s been no mechanism for them to share rental data with us. We have a strong need for more trusted statistics in order to recognize trends.”
When a landlord registers, the County will be able to track the costs of rent, changes in occupancy, and evictions, among other categories. Previously the only data available to the County was year-old statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau or numbers from for-profit real estate data analytics companies that typically only survey properties with more than 50 units. Those properties account for less than seven percent of housing units in the unincorporated county, and landlord representatives regularly assert that larger “corporate” landlords behave differently than housing providers with fewer units.
Over the past several years, the Board of Supervisors has taken actions to alleviate pressure in the county’s housing market, beset by high rents and marked by displacement and low vacancy rates.
“All of us agree we need a lot more housing in this county, but we are taking small steps forward,” said Board President Kate Sears during the December 2018 session in which the just cause ordinance was unanimously approved. “Everything matters. I think this is a good step, and hopefully it will make a difference and we will get good data, and there will be a greater feeling of dignity for our renters.”
The just cause ordinance was recommended by two independent groups that studied fair housing practices and existing barriers to fair housing choice for more than a year in the local market. Just cause joins a larger series of affordable housing and tenant protection measures the Board has supported since 2015 as it has made equity one of its top priorities. County housing measures already approved and in place include source of income protection for tenants with housing vouchers, mandatory mediation for rent increases above 5 percent, financial incentives to encourage landlords to rent to those who need shelter the most, and expanded a fee waiver program to encourage the creation of both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs).
Thomas said the intent of the just cause ordinance is to relieve displacement pressures and support stability for renter households while retaining the rights of landlords to terminate rental agreements for legitimate reasons. The justifiable causes for eviction described in the ordinance include:
failure to pay rent;
a breach of the rental contract;
the tenant using the unit for illegal activities;
the landlord permanently removing the unit from the rental market; and
the landlord moving into the unit.
Later in May, CDA is teaming with the Marin County Free Library to host a registration drive for landlords. Staff from the CDA Housing and Federal Grants Division, CDA Environmental Health Division, and the Department of Finance will be on hand to assist landlords with the registration process. Landlords must have a business license and be registered for environmental health checks.
The events are:
Tuesday, May 21, Fairfax Library, 2097 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., 5-8 p.m.;
Wednesday, May 29, Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd., 5-8 p.m.;
Thursday, May 30, Corte Madera Library, 707 Meadowsweet Dr. 5-8 p.m.;
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