Concord touts anti-harassment ordinance as tenant protection

Allows suits against landlords for unneeded renovations, entry without permission, maintenance lapses

Concord Mayor Dominic Aliano (City of Concord, iStock)
Concord Mayor Dominic Aliano (City of Concord, iStock)

In Concord, it’s now against the law for landlords to barge into tenants’ homes without asking, refuse to perform basic maintenance or physically intimidate tenants.

The East Bay city has passed an tenant anti-harassment ordinance that makes it illegal for landlords to interfere with tenants’ peaceful enjoyment of their home, the East Bay Times reported.

That means it’s now illegal for landlords and property managers to conduct unnecessary renovations inside a unit, enter a unit at odd times of day or night, fail to keep up the property, or otherwise intimidate or abuse a renter.

Landlords who violate the ordinance may be sued by their tenant. If the tenant wins, the landlord may be forced to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 per violation — plus an additional $5,000 if the tenant is elderly or disabled.

Tenant advocates cheered the measure, a year in the making, which they said was necessary to hold bad landlords accountable for unacceptable behavior.

Landlords said the ordinance does nothing but lay traps that set well-meaning, law-abiding property owners up for potentially devastating lawsuits.

“When owning property becomes more trouble than it’s worth, it no longer makes sense to keep it,” said David Schubb, director of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “If the costs continue to rise, if the income from rents don’t, if it becomes too risky and/or punitive to become a property owner, it’s time to go.”
Mayor Dominic Aliano said not everyone in the community will be happy with the decision – a move that needed to be made, he said.

“I heard too many stories of landlords being bad actors, and too many stories of landlords violating the rights that tenants do have,” he said. “And yes I do understand that there are good landlords out there. But we had to discuss this and implement something like this to protect our community from certain landlords acting in bad faith.”

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Tenant rights advocates say harassment became increasingly common during the pandemic, as eviction moratoriums prevented landlords from legally booting out many tenants — even if they didn’t pay rent.

They said some landlords resorted to making their tenants’ lives miserable in the hope that they would leave on their own.

Tenants’ rights group Centro Legal de la Raza reported a 70 percent rise in landlord harassment claims during the first year of the pandemic. In a survey of more than 700 low-income Concord tenants, 16 percent reported experiencing some form of landlord harassment, according to the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, with bullying prevalent among low-income renters, women and undocumented immigrants.

A misunderstanding about a parking spot at a Concord apartment complex led to the property manager threatening tenants with a gun and saying he would shoot anyone who got in his way, according to the alliance.

Joshua Howard, executive vice president of local public affairs for the California Apartment Association, said the ordinance is unnecessary because state law already protects tenants from harassment.

All this new measure does, he said, is set a trap for unwary and well-meaning landlords.

“A landlord under this ordinance takes one step out of line, makes a mistake or has a vendor show up late, they could be on the hook for a massive lawsuit and massive penalties,” Howard said.

[East Bay Times] – Dana Bartholomew

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