The Glendale City Council recently heard the suggestions from the Landlord-Tenant Ad-Hoc Committee on the city’s current Rental Rights Program, with eviction relocation fees at the forefront of the discussion.
Approved by the Council in January 2022, the Ad-Hoc Committee — originally consisting of three renters, three landlords and one neutral representative — was tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations for landlord and tenant rental housing matters.
At the Aug. 22 Council meeting, Sipan Zadoryan, senior analyst for the city of Glendale, presented a report with the committee’s findings and staff’s feedback as the city works toward finalizing a revised version of the program. With more than a dozen suggestions for improvement, a particularly debated topic from the committee’s report was adjusting the city’s relocation compensation practices put in place by Glendale’s Rental Rights Program, which took effect in March 2019.
When a tenant faces a “just cause no fault” eviction, meaning the tenant did not violate the terms of a lease, the city requires the landlord to pay that tenant double the market rate price of the tenant’s unit plus $1,000. This is intended to supplement potential increased rent at a new building, first month’s rent, security deposit fees and moving costs.
According to Lucy Varpetian, the principal assistant city attorney for Glendale, the Ad-Hoc Committee “across the board” felt this was no longer enough. While the Rental Rights Program began in 2019, the original formula for relocation was established in 2001. This prompted the committee to suggest a few different formulas to adjust the process, including one that would require a landlord to provide a tenant with three times the tenant’s current monthly rent or the fair market rate for a comparable unit — whichever is higher — plus $2,000.
The committee also acknowledged the difference between mom-and-pop property owners and larger landlords, suggesting the need to adjust the amount of relocation fees charged for each.
“Recognizing that smaller-scale property owners may have limited resources compared to larger entities, [our] intention is to ensure that they are not disproportionately impacted by higher relocation costs,” the committee’s report read.
While many public commenters expressed concerns over the burden increased relocation fees would have on mom-and-pop landlords, city staff thought this “differentiation could introduce unnecessary complexity and complications into the ordinance.” They also noted the difficulties with accurately identifying which category a building fell into, according to their staff comments on the committee’s report.
“Please think twice about imposing such outrageous financial burdens and drastic measures that will affect these poor mom-and-pop owners, who have worked so hard their entire lives to acquire one small rental unit or two, who choose to invest in Glendale, who rely on their small income to help their families and live a comfortable life during their golden years,” said Susan Broussalian, a real estate broker in Glendale who spoke during public comment. She also said the current system has been working fine.
Another public commenter, Ramella Eraghi, emphasized that the relocation compensation is essential for tenants who cannot afford to move out and suggested that the city provide relocation fees for tenants in situations where the landlord cannot afford it.
Max Sherman, who spoke on behalf of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said he and the organization advise the Council to reject the suggestions of the Ad-Hoc Committee in their entirety.
“The Ad-Hoc Committee begins from a false view point that rental housing providers are bad actors and deserve punishment… The recognition of mom-and-pop owners and their lesser ability to pay relocation fees must be preserved so that they can remain solvent and continue to provide naturally occurring affordable housing,” he said, adding that middle- and high-income renters do not need relocation assistance.
Mayor Dan Brotman acknowledged the complicated nature of providing different relocation compensation, ultimately stating that he thinks the compensation should be the same across the board because tenants are still facing the same issue whether they’re living in a larger rental building or a smaller mom-and-pop building.
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian and Councilwoman Elen Asatryan supported exploring different options for relocation payment, saying the varying resources of different buildings are important to consider.
In addition to discussing relocation fees for tenants facing no fault evictions, the committee also examined these fees for tenants who terminate their leases due to rent increases. Whenever a landlord increases rent by more than 7%, tenants who choose to move out are allowed to request relocation assistance. This compensation can vary based on the number of units, tenant income and how long they have lived in a unit.
The committee suggested simplifying this process by establishing a single value for relocation assistance. City staff agreed the process should be adjusted and suggested a revised calculation that considers the number of years a tenant has resided in the unit, up to a maximum of 10 years, multiplied by the proposed rent increase.
Additionally, the committee brought up the notion that qualified tenants — the elderly and disabled — should be given more relocation benefits in the form of extended move-out times or increased relocation payments. City staff and councilmembers had no objection to this; however, Councilman Ara Najarian asked that the definition of “elderly” be clarified.
Another point of discussion was a current provision that allows landlords to “bank” or roll over their unused rent increases. For example, if a landlord does not exceed the 7% increase allowance for a few years, they would be able to add onto the current year’s rent increase and bypass the relocation requirement. California AB 1482’s cap on rent increases is 10% annually, which limits the amount of banked increases landlords can use. Currently, however, there is no limit to how far back a landlord can use banked increases; the committee suggested landlords only be able to use banked increases from two or three years back.
Brotman questioned whether landlords should be able to roll over increases at all, to which Zadoryan explained the reasoning behind this is to allow landlords to catch up to market rate prices. Councilwoman Paula Devine said she worries that without banking, landlords would increase their rents to the maximum amount more frequently. Najarian supports a three-year banking limit.
The Ad-Hoc Committee also suggested the city better track illegally constructed housing units and enact “a comprehensive mechanism that would enable the city to monitor properties more effectively, ensuring compliance with safety standards and rental regulations,” according to the report. Brotman also emphasized the need for tenants residing in illegal units to have the same protections as all renters when it comes to relocation and habitability.
To try to create a more equal relationship between landlords and tenants, the committee proposed that tenants and landlords must agree on changes to leases, or those changes cannot be put into effect, unless they are required by law. Councilmembers were skeptical about this, particularly Najarian and Devine, who said this would “take away the meaning of ownership.”
Zadoryan also presented the Council with the committee’s ideas for social media and marketing outreach and creating a process for tenant and landlord mediation in an Aug. 29 Council meeting.
The committee proposed the city establish a voluntary, non-binding mediation program to address housing-related disputes such as rent increases, security deposits, evictions, habitability, relocations and other relevant issues. With the costs of hiring mediators and other administrative and operational costs, the committee estimated this program would cost between $120,000 and $210,000. They suggested doing a trial run of this program before fully implementing it.
Brotman proposed connecting a dispute hotline service with appointed mediators and incorporating more dedicated legal services to solve disputes.
First published in the September 9 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.