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Santa Monica's Rent Control Eviction Moratorium and Rental Assistance by Luke Policastro

Santa Monica’s Rent Control Eviction Moratorium & Rental Assistance

by Luke Policastro

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the real estate market and the landlord-tenant landscape as the final quarter of 2022 approaches. In particular, the City of Santa Monica addressed the needs of its tenants when, in late August 2022, the City Council implemented an eviction moratorium in residential rent-controlled units that became subject to new 6% rent increases. The city enacted the new rent increase provisions partly because of inflation from the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to previous eviction moratoria in the city, non-payment of rent must be related to a COVID-19 induced financial distress. The moratorium began on September 1, 2022 and will ultimately protect these renters through the first month of 2023. This moratorium provides additional protection to renters when paired with the City of Los Angeles’ low-income eviction moratorium scheduled to end in December 2022.

The regulation addresses two areas of landlord-tenant relations that have drawn increased scrutiny as the pandemic continues: rent control and eviction moratoria. Santa Monica is not the only city in the state looking to rent control protections at the moment; for example, Santa Ana and Antioch City both implemented additional rent control measures. These past measures did not provide protections for eviction moratoria, however, and were limited only to rent control with caps on price increases.

While the new moratorium does provide protections against larger increases in Santa Monica, rent increases are not altogether prohibited in the city. The moratorium only applies to rent increases above 3% in September, so landlords still have some flexibility with respect to rent increases going forward.

With regard to the new moratorium, City Manager David White asserted that Santa Monica tenants will eventually find additional help with rental-assistance programs. In fact, the city began a rental assistance program called “Rent Control Adjustment Relief” (RCAR) and aimed to distribute $750,000 for tenants living in rent controlled apartments. The program accepted applications for several weeks from August 29, 2022 to September 19, 2022. Just as the eviction moratorium protects renters from eviction in part because of the 6% max increase, RCAR aims to mitigate the effects of this increase as well. Tenants who are considered part of “very-low- and extremely-low-income households” are given priority in the program over tenants with higher incomes. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting both the rights of both landlords and tenants, Santa Monica continues to provide remedies for both parties going forward.