A look at the debate surrounding just cause evictions in California

A number of California cities want to adopt a just cause model for landlords who want to move out tenants.

Housing has become a hot topic in cities throughout California, with the average rent in some areas reaching astronomical levels. While most people acknowledge that the state has a problem with housing availability and affordability, there is plenty of debate about how to tackle the issue. As the Orange County Register reports, one proposal that many tenants' rights activists are currently lobbying for is "just cause eviction." However, just-cause evictions are opposed by many landlords, who say that getting rid of no-fault evictions will lead to increased costs, worse landlord-tenant disputes, and make it overly difficult to evict problem tenants.

Just cause versus no fault

Currently, California has a "no-fault" law as regards move outs. That means that landlords can evict tenants for just about any or no reason so long as they provide notice of 30 to 60 days. There are some exceptions to the no-fault law. For example, landlords cannot eject tenants in retaliation for complaints those tenants have made about living conditions. Also, disabled tenants must be given notice in excess of the standard 30 to 60 days.

However, a number of cities are proposing moving towards a "just cause" model for eviction. Under such a system, landlords would only be able to evict tenants for one of about a dozen reasons, such as not paying rent, engaging in illegal activity, or damaging the property. Landlords could also order tenants who are in good standing to move out, such as if the landlord plans to move into the unit or needs to carry out renovations, but in such cases the landlord would need to provide relocation assistance.

Pros and cons of just cause

While a number of cities in California already have some just cause protections, those cities are limited in how far they can take those laws thanks to state law. As the Mercury News reports, the Costa Hawkins Act prevents cities from imposing rent controls on most single-family units, apartments, or condominiums built after 1995. A ballot initiative has been proposed that would repeal Costa Hawkins, thus giving municipalities greater control over their rent laws.

However, many landlords warn that introducing just cause move-out laws could come with unintended consequences. Landlords worry that just cause laws make removing problem tenants overly onerous. They argue that problem tenants will be harder to remove from their units, thus making living conditions worse for other tenants living on the property. They also argue that just cause laws will make it harder to renovate older properties, which in turn will reduce the number of units that are available for rent and thus further drive up rental prices.

Tenant and landlord disputes

Tenant and landlord disputes can be difficult for both parties. On the one hand, tenants are worried that they will lose their homes, while landlords need to ensure their properties are safe, well taken care of, and financially viable. Anybody involved in a landlord-tenant dispute should contact a real estate attorney. With the stakes so high in such disputes, an attorney can help clients protect their rights and come to a conclusion that serves their best interests.