San Jose Enacts First Limits on Evictions

Landlords in San Jose, Calif., can no longer evict tenants without a “just cause,” under a law the City Council passed Apr. 18.

The measure, passed by a 6-5 vote, will protect about 450,000 people who live in rented housing in California’s third-largest city, about 45 percent of the population. Under it, landlords can no longer refuse to renew a tenant’s lease without giving a specific reason, such as nonpayment of rent or creating a nuisance. It applies to all rental housing in the city, both the about 45,000 rent-controlled units and the roughly two-thirds that are unregulated.

“San Jose has had rent control on the books for decades, but landlords could still arbitrarily evict tenants, undermining the effectiveness of their rent-control law,” the Silicon Valley Renters’ Rights Coalition said in a message to supporters after the vote. “San Jose is now one of the biggest cities in California to have very strong renter protections, and we should all celebrate this important victory.”

San Jose was the only major city in the Bay Area that did not have such protections. City officials told the San Jose Mercury-News that there have been more than 2,400 evictions without cause since 2010.

One of those evictions would have been that of Paul Mayer, a 92-year-old World War II veteran. When a new landlord, Peggy Ramirez DeMaio, bought the 16-unit building where he’s lived for 44 years last fall, she told all the tenants that she would not renew their leases, because she wanted to empty the building to do major renovations. After Mayer’s story provoked a wave of protest in March, DeMaio gave him a three-month extension that will let him stay in his $525-a-month rent-controlled studio until July.

Since November 2015, the Mercury-News reported Apr. 5, DeMaio had evicted 35 of the 41 tenants in four rent-controlled apartment complexes she was renovating. She then rented more than 20 of the vacated apartments to homeless veterans under a city-county program, similar to the federal Section 8 program, that let her charge market rate, gave the new tenants vouchers to subsidize the rent, and also paid her a bonus for each veteran she housed.