A bill that would halt all mandatory evictions in the state because of the criminal history of tenants passed both the Assembly and Senate this week, with a final decision by Governor Gavin Newsom due within the next month.
Assembly Bill 1418, authored by Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor (D-Hawthorne), would specifically prohibit a local government from imposing a penalty against a resident, owner, tenant, landlord, or other person as a consequence of contact with a law enforcement agency. AB 1418 would also prohibit a local government from requiring or encouraging a landlord to evict or penalize a tenant because of the tenant’s association with another tenant or household member who has had contact with a law enforcement agency or has a criminal conviction or to perform a criminal background check of a tenant or a prospective tenant. Finally, the bill would preempt inconsistent local ordinances, rules, policies, programs, or regulations and prescribe remedies for violations.
AB 1418 would, however, not limit landlords from evicting residents based on other reasons, such as those involving nuisance complaints or failure to pay. Landlords would also be able to still screen tenants beforehand for prior criminal histories.
If signed, the bill will go into effect starting on January 1, 2024.
Assemblywoman McKinnor authored the bill because of an uptick of crime-free housing laws in recent years. McKinnor claims that the laws specifically target black and Latino communities across the state, and that the laws have been used in the past to gentrify areas and displace residents.
“We want to make sure we keep Black and brown people in their homes and that crime-free housing rules are not used as an excuse for gentrification,” said McKinnor.
The movement to do away with at least some of these laws has seen a building of momentum since the George Floyd protests in 2020. In particular, the recent final report by the Reparations Task Force specifically noted the unfairness of crime-free housing rules and called for them to be removed as part of reparations.
AB 1418 passes Senate, Assembly unanimously
Following introduction earlier this year, AB 1418 saw an unusually high number of supporters, including the California Apartment Association (CAA), which has long been in support of landlords in the state. Even prior supporters of the practice, such as law enforcement groups, did not oppose the bill.
“This is an inappropriate and objectionable mandate on the part of local governments,” said CAA Vice President Debra Carlton.
With little to no opposition, AB 1418 sailed through the Assembly and Senate this year. In May, the bill passed in the Assembly 72-0 with 8 abstentions. Throughout the summer, AB 1418 proceeded to pass all committees unanimously, with only the rare abstention only occasionally popping up. This led to the 39-0 Senate vote and the 75-0 Assembly vote earlier this week, with the latter happening a second time to to amendments made following the initial Assembly vote in May.
While there has been no opposition to the bill, it is still unknown if Governor Newsom will sign it. He previously opposed such a repeal, but the part that he had objected to, namely about how much the state would need to pay for local reimbursements, was dealt with in this version of the bill. Nonetheless, many housing experts have said that even if AB 1418 passes, landlords and others would still have plenty of ways to remove tenants besides crime-free housing laws.
“If a tenant is bad or really unwanted, there are still many ways to legally remove them even with AB 1418 becoming law,” said landlord legal advisor Marianne Morris. “There’s a reason why many of these groups aren’t fighting against this bill. First of all, it is seen by many as a troublesome law already, so being in favor of the bill is a no-brainer to many. But, past that, there are still so many ways to remove tenants legally. Non-payment and nuisances are the big ones. Landlords still have a lot of leeway even with AB 1418. Again, if the bill was really going to stop a lot of wanted evictions, you would have seen a lot more people oppose it.”
Gov. Newsom is expected to decide on AB 1418 by mid-October.
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