Just Cause Eviction Ordinances require that landlords have a reason to evict a tenant. These ordinances can reduce rates of eviction and renter turnover, creating family and community stability while limiting displacement of renter households. Ordinances are historically established in tandem with rent stabilization ordinances in an effort to ensure that landlords don’t evict tenants with the intention of renting out their units at higher rates. Similarly rent stabilization protects tenants from significant rent increases intended to avoid just cause protections.

As part of a Just Cause Ordinance, a city must establish the permitted reasons to evict a tenant. There are both tenant fault evictions, including failure to pay rent or substantial damage to the unit, and no-fault evictions, including owner move in and removing the unit from the rental market. The box above lists common elements included in local ordinances, though such provisions can vary from city to city. In addition to establishing just causes for eviction, ordinances also include relocation assistance components and noticing requirements.

While often tied to a rent control ordinance, some cities in California have established a just cause ordinance without a rent control program in place. For example, for tenants who rent their unit for a minimum of two years in San Diego, landlords are limited to just cause reasons for eviction. Unlike rent control, just cause eviction ordinances can cover the entire rental market including units built after 1995, single-family homes, and duplexes.

Establishing a Just Cause Eviction ordinance that covers all rental properties in a city is an important part of the tenant protection response. Just Cause establishes a baseline that increases opportunities for renters to stay in their homes, or be compensated if they are required to leave for no-fault of their own.

Just Cause in Santa Clara County

Before 2020, only San Jose and Mountain View had adopted Just Cause Ordinances. San Jose’s ordinance covers all multifamily rental properties within the city, excepting rented single-family homes. Mountain View’s ordinance requires just cause for all units unless they are a part of an affordable housing project. Los Gatos does not have Just Cause Ordinance, but has provisions in its rent control ordinance that prohibit a landlord from evicting a tenant in retaliation for exercising their rights, or if they are attempting to recover possession to evade the rent ordinance.

The landscape was dramatically changed by the passage of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482). This law applies Just Cause protections to tenants statewide who have occupied their unit for at least 12 months. It covers all types of buildings, including single-family[1], for which a certificate of occupancy was issued at least 15 years ago.  It is set to expire at the beginning of 2030 unless subsequent legislation either extends the term or eliminates the sunset clause altogether. Because the San Jose and Mountain View ordinances were enacted prior to September 1, 2019, they are unaffected by the new law.  Currently, the elements of Los Gatos’ ordinance, which provide weaker protections than AB 1482, are superseded as long as the state law is in effect.  Localities may adopt Just Cause Ordinances that are more protective than State law, or enact local ordinances that mirror the state law to extend protections beyond 2030, or to gain more control over local enforcement.

SV@Home’s Position on Just Cause Eviction Ordinances

Renter households in Santa Clara County increasingly face displacement and homelessness due to extreme increases in rent and seemingly arbitrary evictions.  The effects of displacement due to dramatic rises in rent and evictions have undermined tenant and community stability.  This hardship and instability poses a particular burden on tenants and communities with lower and/or fixed incomes.

Policies that respond to the risks of displacement and arbitrary eviction are important parts of the package of tools cities need to respond to the current affordability and displacement crises.  Jurisdictions in Santa Clara County – cities as well as the County itself – should explore enacting more robust just-cause eviction provisions than provided under the Tenant Protection Act to help protect tenants most at risk of displacement within their communities:

  • Consider adopting local ordinances expanding AB 1482 Just Cause evictions to all rental units. This ensures that all tenant households enjoy the same protections.
  • Consider longer periods for tenant noticing as part of the eviction process. Significant advance noticing provides a better opportunity for tenants to secure adequate replacement housing.
  • Consider expanding relocation assistance for evicted tenants beyond than provided in State law. This helps tenants have a better chance of remaining in the community rather than being forced to leave the area.
  • Consider local education and enforcement. Eviction protections require proactive outreach to both tenants and landlords to ensure that both parties are aware of their legal responsibilities and their rights.

[1] Excluding single family residences and duplexes where the owner occupies part of the residence

Additional Resources

AB-1482 Tenant Protection Act of 2019

City of Mountain View Just Cause Tenant Protections

City of San Jose Just Cause Tenant Protections