Richmond rent control law set to return to court Wednesday

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Richmond’s new rent control and just cause for eviction law is set to be challenged in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Wednesday, prompting a planned rally outside of the Martinez courthouse.

The rally is set for 8:30 a.m. at the County Courthouse, 725 Court St. The court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m.

The California Apartment Association (CAA), which represents landlords, filed a lawsuit Jan. 5. On Wednesday, it will reportedly seek a preliminary injunction on the rent control and just cause for eviction law, known as Measure L, which was approved by 63 percent of voters in November.

CAA’s challenge claims in part that the law is “unconstitutionally vague” and runs counter to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

“CAA’s legal team is well-prepared for the hearing,” Joshua Howard, CAA’s senior vice president for Northern California, said in a statement last week.

Rent control advocates say they will attend the court hearing to support the city’s defense of Measure L.

“Rent control has already been found to be constitutional by the California Supreme Court, and this ordinance was modeled off similar laws in effect for decades,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director at Tenants Together. “The California Apartment Association is wasting our time with a frivolous lawsuit.”

The rent control portion of the law rolled back rents to July 2015 and limits their annual increases moving forward to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index. It applies to about 10,000 units in Richmond, and, per state law, exempts single family homes, condos or units constructed after Feb. 1, 1995.

The just cause for eviction portion of the law applies to all rental units in Richmond. The law requires landlords to have a “just cause” to evict a tenant — such as failure to pay rent — whereas previously none was needed.

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