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Proposed California law would require landlords to own property for at least five years before evicting tenants

Assemblymember Alex Lee says serial evictors and property speculators have used the Ellis Act to evict tenants and convert those units into condominiums.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new bill is headed for a committee hearing on Wednesday that could change the process for evictions. 

AB 854 is a new piece of legislation meant to protect renters from serial evictors and is being introduced by Bay Area Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee. 

The main change it would make is that landlords must own a property for at least five years before they can use the Ellis Act to evict someone. 

The Ellis Act was enacted by the California legislature in 1986 to allow mom and pop landlords a way to get out of the rental market. 

Lee said serial evictors and property speculators use the Ellis Act to evict tenants and convert those units into condominiums. 

"What we are going after are serial evictors and speculators who within the recent past are trying to go and flip units. They're buying properties where people exist, evict them and flip them for profit by turning rent-controlled units — which especially have vulnerable seniors and people of color or low income — and turning them into market-rate condominiums," Lee said.

Since 2001, more than 27,000 units in Los Angeles have been taken off the rental market using the Ellis Act which has displaced more than 60,000 Los Angeles residents.

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In San Francisco, more than 5,400 folks have been forced out of their homes in that same time. 

Lee said he believes the new bill is part of a three-pronged approach to solving the housing crisis by preserving units that are already affordable.

"We need to be producing a lot more affordable units, we need to be preserving units that are already affordable, and protecting the vulnerable working-class families that are in California," Lee said.  

ABC10 asked Lee what this means for an average renter in the state of California.

“If this bill were to sign into law, it would mean that thousands of Californians have stronger tenant protections and will not be unjustly evicted just because someone’s flipped the property," Lee said. “So especially during the pandemic, it’s incredibly problematic that folks are being forced onto the street and so that’s why I think it would have the scale of thousands and thousands of households being saved from undue evictions.” 

Lee said the bill wouldn’t change anything for landlords who have owned their property for more than five years. It would only change for landlords who have purchased a property less than five years ago. 

On Jan. 12 this bill will be up for a vote in the Assembly Housing Committee before it’s expected to go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Before the end of the month, Lee said he's expecting it to be up for a vote on the house floor. 

   

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