Just cause eviction controls (JCEC) are laws that protect renters by ensuring that landlords can only evict with proper cause, such as a tenant's failure to pay rent or destruction of property. While JCEC provide such protections for renters, landlords retain full right to evict a tenant for breach of rental contract. Just cause evection controls are an important tool for promoting tenant stability-particularly in low vacancy and expensive housing markets-where landlords may be tempted to evict tenants in order to obtain higher rents.
JCEC are often coupled with rent control laws and offer an important complimentary protection for renters. Many jurisdictions allow vacancy decontrol. This allows owners to set rents at market level when a rent-controlled unit becomes vacant. Preserving rent controls and tenant protections for occupied apartments, while removing them when units are vacated can lead to unjust, or no-fault evictions. Just cause eviction controls correct this problem by ensuring that landlords have proper cause for evictions. While JCEC are often packaged with rent control, they can apply to all rental units in a jurisdiction.
Just cause eviction controls exist in many cities around the nation and are established by city councils or through ballot initiatives.
JCEC vary. Most ordinances:
Strong JCEC ordinances feature:
In most jurisdictions, an administrative agency such as a rent board or an office of rent administration is established to administer and enforce laws pertaining to renters, including just cause eviction controls.
This administrative agency is usually funded through the municipality's regular budgetary process or through special funds created to maintain the operation of these agencies (such as revenue generated from administrative fees). In some jurisdictions, rent control laws require landlords to pay registration fees based on the number of rental units they own. These fees are then used to finance the operations of the agency. Likewise, some jurisdictions require renters covered by tenant protections such as JCEC to pay a small fee to support enforcement and monitoring. Visit the Financing section of the Rent Control Tool for a more complete discussion.
Rent control maintains the affordability of the existing housing stock during periods of reinvestment, stabilizing existing tenants so that they, too, will benefit from improved neighborhoods, along with landlords, developers, and new residents. In addition to tenants, the broader community benefits from a healthy, stable, and diverse community.
A rent board, or other public agency, enforces JCEC. As with many laws to protect tenants, building and mobilizing a broad base of support for JCEC is critical to using and maintaining the effectiveness of this tool. In addition to renters, community organizers should enlist support from other individuals and organizations committed to affordable, mixed-income, multi-racial communities. JCEC campaigns have found outspoken allies among public officials, neighborhood associations, small homeowners, labor and tenants unions, student groups, mental health organizations, elderly groups, women's organizations, and faith-based communities. National organizations such as ACORN can also provide support to local JCEC campaigns.
West Hollywood , California . Incorporated in 1984, the city of West Hollywood has JCEC laws that apply to all housing in the city, not just those under the jurisdiction of rent control. While just cause controls are an important tool, they are most effective when part of a larger strategy to protect tenants' rights. The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), a strong force in tenants' rights and advocacy in the Los Angeles region, has been working on a variety of measures to protect tenant. CES has taken the lead in ensuring that affordable housing is built, offering legal support for tenants facing eviction, and creating a rent escrow program in Los Angeles . This escrow program applies to buildings that are falling apart and where the landlord has been negligible in fixing major problems. Tenants, who live in one of these designated buildings, pay their monthly rent into a fund that the landlord can retrieve only when the property is brought in line with health and safety standards.
Berkeley , California . In June 1980, Berkeley residents passed one of the most comprehensive rent stabilization laws, known as the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance. The ordinance regulates most residential rents in Berkeley , provides tenants with increased protection against evictions and is intended to maintain affordable housing and preserve community diversity. In 1995, the California legislature enacted the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which suspends rent control during a qualifying vacancy and reinstates it for a new tenancy. Now, under full vacancy decontrol, owners may set a market rent for most tenancies beginning on or after January 1, 1999 . The rent charged a new tenant becomes the new rent ceiling. Berkeley 's strong rent control law had been seriously weakened through state legislation.
This organization provides state-by-state links for tenants' rights organizations.
3902 S. Ferdinand St.
Seattle, WA 98118
Phone: (206) 723-0500
Fax: (206) 725-3527
Online resource for tenants in New York State, but also has a national directory.
San Francisco Tenants Union
588 Capp Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Cleveland Tenants Organization
2530 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
Coalition for Economic Survival
1296 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles , CA 90046-5206
Just Cause Oakland
PO Box 30960
Oakland , CA 94612-9991
City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board
2125 Milvia Street
Berkeley , CA 94704