The Effectiveness of Measure RR`s Noticing Requirements

Santa Monica Rent Control Board Commissioners
Neil Wessel, Public Information Manager
October 10, 2013
The Effectiveness of Measure RR’s Noticing Requirements
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Subject Matter:
At their meeting of August 8, the Rent Control Board asked staff to research the
effectiveness of the changes to Santa Monica law as a result of the passage of Measure RR
in the municipal election of November 2010.
The passage of Measure RR resulted in three significant changes to the City Charter: “just
cause” eviction protections were extended to Santa Monica tenants in most non rentcontrolled units on multi-unit residential rental properties; eviction protections were
expanded for seniors, disabled, and terminally ill tenants; and, the Rent Control Law was
amended to add the requirement that a “warning notice” be served on tenants prior to
landlords initiating certain just cause eviction actions.
The “warning notice” now required by the Rent Control Law applies only to specific grounds
for eviction, such as committing a breach of a term of one’s rental agreement, committing a
nuisance, or refusing to grant the landlord reasonable access to one’s unit. The warning
notice is to be served on a tenant a reasonable amount of time prior to serving a notice to
terminate the tenancy, giving the tenant additional time to correct the problem.
During public comments at the Board meeting of August 8, a member of the public initiated
a discussion regarding the effectiveness of Measure RR, which led the Board to request a
report regarding the question, “Is Measure RR working?” The member of the public who
initiated the conversation also asked the questions: “Why send a warning notice?” and
“What is the penalty for not doing it?”
The discussion at the August 8th meeting revolved around the requirement that landlords
serve a warning notice on tenants prior to certain unlawful detainer actions. Therefore, the
question “Is Measure RR working?” is probably better rephrased to ask: “Is the warning
notice requirement that is now a part of the Rent Control Law having its intended effect?”
The genesis of Measure RR began with a staff report dated May 24, 2010 to the Rent
Control Board regarding affording greater tenant protections in the City Santa Monica. One
of the protections the report suggests is to require that landlords serve a warning notice on a
tenant a reasonable amount of time prior to service of a three-day notice on the tenant. The
report mentions several other jurisdictions whose laws have similar warning notice
requirements, including one that had recently been upheld by a California appellate court.
The report goes on to say, “The value of a warning is that it allows a tenant to cure conduct
before it ripens into a just-cause ground for eviction.” That is the intended effect of this
change to the law – that the warning notice provide tenants with a reasonable amount of
time to cure offending conduct before it results in a just-cause for eviction, and that such
additional time to cure a problem lead to fewer actual evictions. The results of staff’s
investigation indicate the warning notice requirement IS having its intended effect.
An empirical measure of the effectiveness of the warning notice requirement is not possible
– there is no absolute measure of the number of times a notice successfully allowed a
tenant to have the necessary time to correct a problem before legal action was taken by a
landlord. The best available measure of the law’s effectiveness is anecdotal evidence from
those who work on the front lines of the forums where landlord-tenant disputes are
addressed: Rent Control Information Analysts, SMRR hotline staff, Legal Aid and tenant
attorneys, and to a lesser extent, the City Attorney’s Office. Individuals from all of these
sources were consulted regarding this issue.
Questions as to the effectiveness of the warning notice requirement that were determined to
be applicable to this report were: 1) How aware are landlords and tenants of the warning
notice requirement? 2) Are tenants asserting the failure to serve the required notice as a
defense to an eviction action? 3) Are courts allowing the defense and finding in favor of
tenants who assert such a defense? 4) Are landlords somehow using the notice requirement
in an abusive way?
In sum, comments regarding the warning notice requirement were primarily supportive,
including statements such as: “Very helpful.”; “The regular three day notice period is way too
short . . . The extended time really helps.”; “Measure RR is a lifesaver for unauthorized
occupant cases . . .”; and from a staff member at Legal Aid: “I think overall it’s a good thing.”
To address a couple of the questions raised by the member of the public who spoke at
August’s meeting:
“Why send a warning notice?” The simple answer is service is required by the law. Section
1806(b) of the City Charter was added requiring service of “written notice” be served “a
reasonable period prior to serving a notice to terminate tenancy” based on certain grounds
for eviction.
“What is the penalty for not doing it?” Section 1806(f) of the Charter provides an affirmative
defense to an eviction based on a landlords’ failure to follow any requirement of Section
From staff’s communications with Legal Aid and tenant attorneys, the attorney community
that represents landlords seems to be aware of the noticing requirement. Comments
included: “Most of the regular landlord attorneys seem aware of it,” and “The landlord
attorneys with whom I normally deal . . . are providing the Prop. RR notices.”
No information was available regarding the reaction of local courts to a defense based on a
failure to serve a warning notice. However, tenant attorneys stated they were having some
success in negotiating for a dismissal of an unlawful detainer lawsuit where the landlord had
failed to serve a warning notice.
Finally, the Rent Control Agency is continuing to get the word out regarding the warning
notice requirement. Since the passage of Measure RR, the Agency has sent out at least
four public mailings, including our semi-annual newsletters and summer mailings, which
have included articles regarding the change to the law requiring the service of warning
notices. Additionally, the attached information sheet entitled “Guidelines for Determination
of a Reasonable Opportunity to Correct a Breach or Nuisance” is available both online and
at the Board’s City Hall offices. These guidelines were developed after consulting with both
tenant and landlord advocacy groups.
Since these noticing requirements are a relatively new aspect of the Rent Control Law, the
Agency will continue to inform the public about them. The Agency’s next newsletter, which
will be mailed this November to all landlords and tenants of rent-controlled units, will revisit
this subject. And for anyone who has questions about the warning notice issue, the
information sheet mentioned above is available on the Board’s website or in our City Hall
The warning notice requirement appears to be working well in encouraging more dialogue
between landlords and tenants, as well as providing tenants with additional time to correct
problems before they become grounds for an eviction.
The change to the Rent Control Law due to the passage of Measure RR also includes a
provision permitting the Board to enact regulations regarding reasonable notice. Input from
various sources indicates that additional guidance may be helpful regarding service of the
required warning notices, as well as what constitutes a “reasonable” amount of time. If the
Board would like to consider adopting such regulations, an item will be placed on a future
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Guidelines for Determination of a Reasonable Opportunity
to Correct a Breach or Nuisance
[Rent Control Law Section 1806(b)]
Before serving a notice to cure or quit based on breach of the rental agreement,
nuisance, or refusal to provide reasonable access to the unit, an owner must give the
tenant a written warning. The warning is intended to give the tenant a reasonable
chance to correct any violation before it ripens into a ground for eviction.
The guidelines below were developed by Rent Control staff in consultation with both
tenant and owner advocacy groups to give an idea of how much time is reasonable to
correct the most typical types of violations. They are guidelines only and are not
prescribed by law. It is important to understand that courts ruling on eviction actions will
determine how much time to correct a violation is reasonable based on the specific facts
of a case.
These guidelines distinguish among conduct that may affect health or safety, conduct
that affects the ability of other tenants to live in quiet enjoyment, and other types of
undesirable behavior. The items listed here are examples of situations that may
constitute a breach or nuisance and are not exhaustive of all such situations. These
guidelines do not apply to circumstances where no notice to cure is required under Civil
Code section 1161(3) or 1161(4).
Immediate hazard to health or safety
24 hours before service of a notice to cure or quit
Storage of hazardous material on property
Modification to gas appliances, gas lines or other building systems that
constitute a danger to the immediate health or safety of residents
A pet whose behavior constitutes an immediate danger to the health or
safety of residents
Conduct that causes a disturbance to neighbors
3 days before service of a notice to cure or quit
Noise disturbance
Conduct that causes a disturbance to neighbors (cont.)
3 days before service of a notice to cure or quit
Unpermitted storage of personal belongings in the common areas of the
Unpermitted parking
Risk of damage to owner’s property or neighbor’s property
7 days before service of a notice to cure or quit
Unauthorized laundry machine and related modifications to the plumbing
of the rental unit
Noise disturbance caused by a dog whose behavior does not constitute an
immediate danger to the health or safety of residents
Violation of the lease that does not cause a disturbance to neighbors or
affect the health or safety of other residents
14 days before service of a notice to cure or quit
Modification of paint
Unauthorized occupants
Unauthorized pet
Additional time may be required for disabled or senior tenants who request special