State Assembly Approves Richard Bloom’s Bill to Close Ellis Act Loopholes

The California State Assembly has approved AB 1399, Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s (D-Santa Monica) measure to close loopholes in the Ellis Act that have allowed some landlords to displace tenants and raise the price of rent control units. Though misuse of the Ellis Act has existed for decades, the current housing crisis has exacerbated the problem.

“The housing crisis has left tenants increasingly vulnerable in the face of rapidly escalating housing costs,” said Assemblymember Bloom in an announcement of the Assembly decision. “Though insulated from some of these price increases, tenants in rent control units are at risk of displacement by landlords who want to exploit loopholes to raise rents to market prices. AB 1399 protects these tenants and prevents the loss of affordable housing in cities with rent control.”

The Ellis Act gives rental property owners the right to exit the rental housing market, but also places conditions and restrictions on landlords who evict tenants in order to exit the market. These conditions include a requirement to notify tenants 120 days prior to withdrawing a unit, with a longer one year notification requirement for tenants who are disabled or above the age of 62. The Act also restricts when owners can re-enter the market and what price they can re-rent units at when they re-enter, and requires that all units in a building be removed simultaneously. As the housing crisis has driven up the market rate for rental units, landlords are increasingly subverting the Ellis Act and using it to evict tenants living in rent control units. These landlords often withdraw individual units from the rental market and return them in a piecemeal manner to avoid the Act’s restrictions and to evade rent control. In the Los Angeles area alone, over 20,000 rent-stabilized units have been removed from the rental market since 2001, with tens of thousands of tenants evicted in the process.

AB 1399 clarifies the Ellis Act by setting one withdrawal date for a property; by clarifying that the date on which the accommodations are deemed to have been withdrawn from the rental market is the date on which the final tenancy among all tenants is terminated, and clarifies that owners may not pay prior tenants liquidated damages in lieu of offering them the opportunity to re-rent their former unit.

The bill is supported by a number of organizations, including the City of West Hollywood, which has long been a champion of affordable housing.

“West Hollywood is very pleased to see AB 1399 by Assemblymember Richard Bloom approved by the legislature,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “The City of West Hollywood has long advocated for fair housing and tenant-related laws. AB 1399 will prevent abusive practices by those landlords who look to take advantage of legal loopholes to evict tenants from their homes. We commend Assemblymember Richard Bloom for his relentless efforts and urge Governor Gavin Newsome to sign this bill into law.”

“For too long, ambiguities in the Ellis Act have allowed some landlords to evict tenants simply for higher profits. AB 1399 will give renters more protection against such practices,” said Assemblymember Bloom.

AB 1399, approved on Thursday, now heads to the Governor’s office for his signature. 

Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.

  1. Where is developer-champion state Senator Scott Wiener on this bill? Wiener may just want highrise condos for high-tech. Developers and high-tech corporations have BILLION TO PROVIDE POLITICIANS who do their bidding.

  2. What’s better than rent control? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings. While rent control makes it less attractive to supply accommodation, a vacant-property tax makes it less attractive NOT to! A vacant-property tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive to fail to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant.

    Such a tax, although sometimes called a “vacancy tax”, is not limited to what real-estate agents call “vacancies” — that is, properties available for rent. It also applies to vacant lots and other properties that are not on the rental market, and is designed to push them onto the market and get them tenanted.

    A vacant-property tax is intended to be avoided; if it’s properly designed, nobody actually has to pay it. And the *avoidance* of it would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us would pay LESS tax!

  3. It seems our Mayor thinks that the 80% of West Hollywood Residents are not paying attention. He says he supports affordable housing, yet he takes campaign donations from developers who build expensive apartment buildings. Who does he represent? The residents or the developers?It’s kind of hard to do both. With over 50% of Weho residents under the age of 40, hopefully we will get some new younger blood to run for City Council. The old school ways of running this town, especially for renters, is not working anymore.

    1. Full disclosure, I work for Assemblymember Bloom, but no, there isn’t anything in the bill that someone might be surprised by later. In fact, the only thing people might be surprised about is that, although very important and necessary, does not stop the use of Ellis Act evictions. Any property owner who chooses to legally Ellis their property today, will still be able to do so after this bill becomes law. This bill only curtails bad actors from using loopholes to subvert elements of the Ellis Act.

      This is a small but important victory for tenants. Please encourage the Governor to sign AB 1399 calling or writing his office.

      Bill Text:

      1. Well, you haven’t discussed the unintended consequences of this bill. Why not? You cannot hamstring honest home and apartment landlords and think that tenants won’t be adversely effected in the long term.

        1. Hi Karen. This bill does not change the intended nature of the Ellis Act. As I mentioned above, anyone who intends to legally evict tenants using the Ellis Act today, will not be affected by this law. This law resolves some of the issues that cities were reporting to us where people were not following the rules during the process.
          While there is always a risk of unintended consequence when laws are created, amended or repealed, I can say with a high level of certainty, any unintended consequences from this bill would be minimal to none.

    1. And any two faced commissioners that are also on the dole to facilitate projects. This city has an ethics and credibility problem that cannot be ignored. The ethics team that is periodically trotted out is hopelessly sad and ineffectual.

    2. While developers invest in communities – unions suck money out and control the jobs in our local neighborhoods – if you want to see West Hollywood completely destroyed vote for a consistent who has union support. 1) no locals will get jobs 2) prices will rise. 3) aging in place is even deader a senior won’t be able to afford the corner store. Unions are trying to control the city elections, cannabis, hotels and restaurants- I’d rather support a developer.

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