Concord council OKs new rules protecting tenants

CONCORD, CA (Feb. 17, 2024) — The City Council voted 4-1 on Feb. 13 to approve a Residential Tenant Protection Program, after hashing out how to address single-family homes.

At the beginning of the meeting, Councilmember Carlyn Obringer suggested that the council put the ordinance up for a citywide vote on the November ballot. She told her colleagues that she’s heard from at least 100 residents since the Jan. 30 meeting – with all saying they are just learning that single-family homes would be included.

While the council has been discussing protections for apartment tenants for seven years, single-family homes first appeared in draft documents last fall.

“If I asked anyone in my neighborhood, even people who are renting out homes, I don’t think they would know anything about this. And I think it would only be fair to enable them to get engaged on the topic,” Obringer said, adding that there could be “backlash” to the single-family component.

Noting that she’s “been approached at the grocery store, at church, out walking,” Councilmember Laura Hoffmeister said Obringer’s concerns have merit.

Councilmember Dominic Aliano countered that “the conversation about single-family homes has been part of our normal public process.” Councilmember Laura Nakamura and Mayor Edi Birsan also were clear in their desire to approve the ordinance now.

Although Obringer wanted to make a motion regarding a ballot measure, city staff pointed out that it wasn’t allowed because the item was not on the agenda.

New rules for all landlords

The key unresolved issue was how to handle just-cause, no-fault evictions when an owner wants to move into a single-family home or condo unit. A lengthy council debate led to a compromise that reduced the moving fee these landlords would pay to $2,000, along with two months’ rent.

When just-cause, no-fault evictions occur in multi-family complexes, landlords would pay three times the Federal Housing and Urban Development Fair Market Rent plus $3,000 for moving expenses.

The new ordinance, which is expected to take effect April 4, will also expand the city’s Rent Registry. All landlords must register rental units by July 1, as well as pay a fee that will finance implementation and enforcement.

Rent restrictions for multi-units

In addition, the city created a Rent Stabilization Program for multi-family rental complexes of two or more units built before Feb. 1, 1995. It limits annual rent increases to 3%, or 60% of the Consumer Price Index – whichever is lower. Special rules will apply to affordable housing providers, based on previous agreements with the city or other governmental agencies.

The policy includes a rent rollback to the amount charged as of April 4, 2023, plus up to an increase of 2.52% for the 2023 calendar year.

Tenants may go through a newly established hearing officer to appeal a rent increase. Tenants and property owners could also file a lawsuit directly when disputes arise.

Addressing ‘a crisis’

Echoing his thoughts from previous meetings, Aliano said the council introduced the ordinance because a few landlords “have abused the rights and harassed people in our community.”

Hoffmeister, who cast the lone no vote, acknowledged the tenants’ perspective but believes the new policies “overburden” landlords. “I think it’s a minority that have had the (negative) impact on our community, and it’s unfortunate that we have to do this wide-ranging approach.”

Calling it “a rough night and a rough seven years,” Birsan said his goal was to make things better for tenants. “But I also know and appreciate especially the smaller landlords. I tried to distinguish between the small and the large – it didn’t work. We are now looking to try to address a crisis.”

Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer |

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.