At-Will Eviction Bill Moves Through CA Legislature

by on June 10, 2014

Since first reporting on AB 1513, State Assemblymember Steve Fox’s proposed anti-squatter bill, in April, the legislation has been swiftly making its way through the State legislature almost without notice or question.

 

With awareness raised in April by the Kill At-Will Eviction Bill Coalition, the bill was amended to only apply to Palmdale and Lancaster in Los Angeles County and removed its more ambiguous “Unauthorized Occupant Declaration” clause, which would have made subletters and others not named on a lease vulnerable to eviction.

 

While organizations like Tenants Together, Causa Justa/Just Cause, and the Berkeley Tenants Union have all expressed concerns over the bill, it has hardly been talked about since, despite the potential threats this bill would create to tenants across the state as evictions continue to skyrocket.

 

The amended AB 1513 passed the State Assembly with ease in May with a 68-3 vote, garnering seemingly unprecedented bipartisan support given the difficulties that Mark Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill faced in the Senate. The almost unanimous passage of the anti-tenant AB 1513 could be troublesome for Leno’s much-needed Ellis reform bill as it now makes its way to the same Assembly floor.

 

Despite the amendments to AB 1513, the bill would still possibly pose a threat to tenants across the state.

 

The current version of the bill, if passed, would still give an additional tool for predatory landowners looking to evict tenants, and the bill’s language leaves room for possible abuse similar to current Ellis Act abuses.

 

The bill is targeted specifically to those illegally squatting in vacant homes, allowing for landowners to bypass judicial process by filing a “Declaration of Ownership” to local police officials instead of filing an unlawful detainer with the court. Those alleged to be occupying a home illegally could then be arrested and charged, all without due process.

 

In addition to granting landowners powers to bypass legal procedures, it also grants private security services rights to carry out searches of vacant homes in lieu of proper police units.

 

The bill was written to address a local problem in Fox’s district, but like the Ellis Act, it would set a dangerous precedent for future legislation.

 

A recent Berkeley Property Owners Association newsletter has been circulating Beyond Chron’s April story, suggesting that Fox’s legislation could be drafted to include other jurisdictions in the future.

 

Katherine Harr of the Berkeley Tenants Union expressed her concerns to Beyond Chron about the possibility for other cities in the future to adopt similar legislation should AB 1513 passes. She cited the fact that it was essential for Leno’s bill to pass because it would also make it easier for cities like Berkeley to pass similar Ellis reform. In the same way, should AB 1513 pass, it would make it easier for other jurisdictions to adopt similar radical eviction legislations.

 

AB 1513 is currently in the Senate Committee on Public Safety, but is not scheduled to be heard by the committee yet.

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Andrew Szeto

Andrew Szeto is a writer based in San Francisco.

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