More California cities are banning landlord harassment

She said the slow rollout of rent relief, coupled with the moratorium on evictions, meant frustrated landlords were looking for other ways to make their tenants pay or leave.

But Singh said another reason more tenants in cities like Concord are pushing for these proposals is that over the past decade more people of color and especially low-income tenants have moved away. expensive coastal towns looking for affordable housing.

“As people are pushed further and further, often inland,” she said, “they move to places where they have no protection, and they try to organize in these places”.

Landlord advocates have pushed back against these new local policies, saying they are unnecessary since the state already has laws prohibiting landlords from harassing their tenants. Joshua Howard of the California Apartment Association criticized the local policies as being too broad.

“What these orders do is they invite excessive punishment for landlords for making what could be considered an innocent mistake,” he said.

Reverend Leslie Taylor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Concord offers a prayer during a tenant rally and vigil at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on June 9, 2022. (Amaya Nicole Edwards/KQED)

Local ordinances expand the definition of what can be considered harassment beyond what is already permitted by state law. In Concord, this can include behaviors such as not accepting rent payments, not making timely repairs, or entering the rental unit outside of business hours, unless the tenant does not request it.

They also add penalties — up to $10,000 in Los Angeles or $5,000 in Concord — for violating the city’s anti-harassment policy, in addition to the $2,000 allowed by state law.

“So not only could the owner be sued under state law, but they could also be sued under local law,” Howard said, calling the policies overly punitive. “It creates double jeopardy and a second mechanism to prosecute the owner and impose significant fines, costs and penalties.”

Tenant organizers say these penalties are necessary to send a strong message to landlords and property managers that harassment will not be tolerated.

“It really empowers tenants,” Singh said. “What they instinctively know is that this [behavior] is wrong, but the fact that it is legally wrong actually gives them a lot of strength.

Bernard P. Love