The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance Monday that will give Isla Vista tenants more rights when dealing with landlords.
Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall drafted a “Renters’ Rights” package, which mandates that landlords register nonfinancial evictions with the county and provide relocation assistance to tenants who must move because of building code violations.
The ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote. However, the board must approve a second reading by another vote at its next meeting because it decided to change the ordinance’s wording to specify that only nonfinancial evictions need to be registered with the county.
Mark Chaconas, Marshall’s assistant, said the second reading will not change anything and that “for all intents and purposes, the ordinance was passed.”
The original ordinance included a clause requiring landlords to pay interest on tenant security deposits, but it was removed because of a lack of support. Marshall said the ordinance still provides tenants with greater leverage against their landlords.
“There was so much rhetoric on the interest on the security deposit. It is unfortunate – it’s not the big deal that the landlords are making it out to be,” she said. “I think this is a positive step toward acknowledging that the tenant is in an untenable position in Santa Barbara County – at the mercy of the landlord. Not to say that 95 percent of landlords aren’t good, caring people, but we now have legislation for the 5 percent who are scofflaws.”
I.V. Tenants Union member Harley Augustino said Action Apartments, a Santa Monica property manager, recently filed suit to protest a law in that area requiring landlords to pay three percent on security deposits.
“That complicated the [Santa Barbara] ordinance, and the [advocates of the package] made a decision to shelve the security deposit issue until that lawsuit was settled. I don’t see it as we lost the security deposit piece, but that we are waiting until the smoke clears,” he said.
I.V. landlord Lou Ventura said the new ordinance would affect only a small portion of county landlords.
“I think they are going after a very certain population. It’s a handful of people that are grossly violating the laws,” he said. “This ordinance is not something that is going to affect us directly because we are not into providing substandard housing.”
Augustino said any landlord opposition to the ordinance is the result of an ideological difference, not the ordinance itself.
“If landlords don’t evict people and keep their apartments safe and habitable, there will be no effect on them, so they should just stop whining,” he said. “But I don’t believe that the actual ordinance is what is really at stake. The landlords are opposed philosophically to anything before them that puts any regulation for tenants on the books. They act like tenants’ rights are the end of Western civilization.”