What Is The Santa Cruz Rent Control And Tenant Protection Act?
The Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act (SCRCA), also known as “Measure M” on the November 2018 ballot, is a three-part rent stabilization and protection plan for Santa Cruz, modeled after similar laws passed by voters in other California cities in recent years. These three sections are:
- Rent Control. This section limits yearly rent increases in protected rental units, which will be tied to inflation, based on the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for the SF Bay Area.
- Just Cause for Eviction. This section strengthens tenants’ right to remain in their rental units. Current state law allows landlords unrestrained use of eviction as a tool to increase their profits, by resetting controlled rents to market rates when a new tenant moves in, or to retaliate against a tenant who asks for repairs or is involved in a dispute. Therefore, for rent control to be effective, it must be paired with protections that allow evictions only for specific, valid reasons. Just Causes for Eviction due to action by the tenant include failure to pay rent, violating the terms of the lease, engaging in illegal activity, creating a nuisance, denying access, or refusing to sign a new lease. If tenants are forced to move due to no fault of their own, such as in the event of owner move-in or removal of the property from the rental market, landlords are required to pay relocation assistance to the tenants, to help defray the costs they incur by their displacement.
- Elected Rent Board. This Board administers the Rent Control law and is tasked with these duties:
- Setting the allowable limit for annual residential rent increases, proportional to the increase in the cost of living
- Ensuring that landlords receive a fair return on their investment
- Handling petitions by tenants and landlords
- Scheduling and conducting rental arbitration hearings and mediation sessions
- Investigating reports of illegal rent increases and wrongful eviction
- Creating rules and regulations to run the program
- Hiring staff and hearing officers
- Conducting studies and surveys
- Issuing reports to the City Council
- Establishing penalties for violations of the Rent Control law
- Educating tenants and landlords about their rights
The initial members of the Rent Board will be appointed by the City Council. Thereafter, like the City Council and other rent boards across the Bay Area, its members will be elected by, and fully accountable to, the voters of Santa Cruz.