By Thomas C. Schultheis
Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS®
As many of you may already know, on Tuesday, April 16th, after hours of testimony, the Santa Barbara City Council rejected two years’ worth of negotiations and compromise conducted by the council-appointed Landlord/Tenant task force, which cost approximately $30,000. The Council voted 6-1 to approve the creation of an eviction control ordinance, commonly known as “Just Cause”. Council-member Rowse seemed to be the only one who understood the negative impacts of ordinances such as these on both the landlord and tenant communities.
Although it sounds innocuous, “just-cause ordinances” create conditions which make it very difficult to remove tenants who have no regard for their neighbors, destroy the property, or are involved in illegal activity. As a result, communities suffer heavy consequences, as nuisance conditions are not easily remedied.
The new ordinances could require owners to provide substantial evidence in court to proceed with an eviction. These burden-of-proof requirements would force them to rely, in part, on the testimony of third-party witnesses. Furthermore, unscrupulous attorneys could abuse these ordinances to delay valid terminations or stop the process altogether. These ordinances would increasingly force housing providers to question whether litigation and settlement costs are worthwhile, since these can amount to years of rental income. In addition, ordinances such as these will push landlords to tighten screening processes to minimize the chances of renting to a bad tenant and to protect their income. Sadly, in this already-competitive rental market, this hurts the opportunities of tenants with less-than-perfect rental histories or questionable financial profiles. Ironically, the Council failed to see that this ordinance may actually harm those whom it claims to protect.
The SBAOR is very disappointed with the Council’s actions, as their reasoning is ill-informed and shortsighted. Termination-control provisions were included late in the process after two years of good-faith compromise and working to find better solutions. The proposed ordinances would cover all rental housing of any type, including single-family homes.
The SBAOR will continue to monitor the issue, work to find a better path forward, and keep you updated. The SBAOR is committed to protecting tenants and landlords alike.
The Santa Barbara Association of REALTORSⓇ urges you to consult with your REALTOR® to learn more about this proposed ordinance, how it might impact you as a renter or owner, and how you can make the best of this challenge.