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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Oakland City Council passes tenant rights ordinance co-sponsored by City Attorney

Tenant Move Out Ordinance requires that landlords notify tenants of their rights and grants tenants right to reconsider agreements

OAKLAND, CA — The Oakland City Council has adopted an ordinance sponsored by City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, City Council President Pro Tempore Abel Guillén and Councilmember Dan Kalb to protect  tenants when landlords initiate move out negotiations.

The Council adopted the Tenant Move Out Ordinance (TMOO) on April 17. The ordinance, which will take effect May 1, 2018, improves the fairness and transparency of move out negotiations and agreements. It will require that property owners advise tenants in writing of their rights when the owner seeks to negotiate a move out. The ordinance grants tenants the right to reconsider and rescind move out agreements in specified circumstances and clarifies that the City’s minimum relocation payment amounts apply to move out agreements.

As Oakland’s housing crisis continues and grows, the City is receiving reports that low-income tenants have signed exploitative move out agreements. Some of these agreements fail to cover even the relocation costs; others agreements require that tenants give up their legal rights or options to return to the unit. Tenants who inadvertently waive these rights face the nearly impossible task of finding affordable housing at a comparable rent, because state law allows property owners to rent vacant units at market rates, which in many cases are astronomical.

“As Oakland struggles with a historic housing crisis, some unscrupulous landlords are using deceptive or coercive tactics to get rid of tenants,” City Attorney Parker said. “This new law will require that landlords advise tenants of their rights so they are in a position to advocate for their rights; and the law will help the City identify bad actors who are attempting to force tenants out of their homes under false pretenses.”

Councilmember Guillén said: "These new protections will bring clarity and even the playing field to ensure a more fair and transparent process between tenants and their landlords. The reporting and disclosure requirements will help tenants make better-informed decisions during negotiations."

The ordinance requires that landlords give tenants information including the following in writing:

  • A statement that the tenant has the right to refuse to enter into a move out agreement, and the property owner cannot retaliate against them for this decision;
  • A statement that the tenant may choose to consult with an attorney before entering into a move out agreement or move out negotiations;
  • A statement that the tenant may rescind the move out agreement for up to 25 days – if the tenant has not already moved out;
  • A description of the tenant’s eligibility for relocation payments;
  • Information about when tenants have rights to return to their homes under state and local law, as well as a statement that waiver of rights to return may increase the value of move out agreements; and
  • A statement that property owners who fail to comply with the ordinance may be subject to more significant penalties if the tenant is elderly, disabled or catastrophically ill, and a space for tenants to indicate whether they fall within any of these categories as defined in the ordinance.

Under the new law, property owners also are responsible for submitting notifications of their intent to enter into move out negotiations – as well as copies of any fully-executed move out agreements – to the City’s Rent Adjustment Program.

Additionally, owners must give tenants a copy of the agreement in the language in which it was negotiated or in English, Spanish or Chinese, depending upon the language(s) in which the tenant is proficient. According to data from the 2000 census, over 26% of Oakland residents speak either Spanish or Chinese at home.

The ordinance also requires that property owners state under penalty of perjury whether or not they have recently communicated to the tenants that they intend to recover the unit under Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance and on what grounds. Responses to this question will aid the City in identifying property owners who may be coercing tenants to accept move out agreements through misrepresentation or intimidation.

The ordinance does not apply to move out agreements that are negotiated or agreed to during the course of an unlawful detainer (eviction) proceeding.

“In Oakland’s high rental market, some tenants have been pressured into bad move-out deals by landlords who want to jack the rent up sky high,” Councilmember Kalb said. “The Tenant Move Out Ordinance increases transparency and fairness around move-out negotiations between tenants and landlords and will aid the City’s regulatory efforts accordingly.”

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