Buena Park renters will soon get greater eviction protections than provided by current state law as calls for greater tenant safeguards grow louder throughout the city.

City Council Members voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt an ordinance prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants for renovations without first obtaining the necessary permits from the city despite pushback from state and local apartment associations.

City Attorney Chris Cardinale said at Tuesday’s meeting that the ordinance was aimed at closing a gap in state law that landlords use to evict renters under the guise of renovations.

“There’s concern that owners can express an intent that is not their actual intent and then move forward with an eviction just to re-let it to another tenant,” he said.

City officials said the new ordinance is consistent with the State Tenant Protection Act of 2019, but also goes a step further. 

It will soon require landlords to first get building or demolition permits before evicting a tenant on the basis of making substantial renovations or repairs to their property.

Under the new ordinance, if a landlord knowingly evicts a tenant for renovations without the intention to follow through, the renter could sue for up to $15,000.

According to a staff report, there’s going to be a public outreach campaign before the law takes effect in 30 days.

Click here for Tuesday’s meeting agenda with the ordinance attached.

Councilman José Trinidad Castañeda, who helped push for the ordinance, said the law will only impact bad landlords.

“I do feel that the way that the ordinance has been drafted is adequate to really target the bad actors, so to speak, with the ill intents to evict tenants without any reasonable cause,” he said.

State and local apartment associations – who opposed the measure – pointed to a proposed state Senate bill that would also require landlords to have building permits before booting a renter on the basis of substantial repairs and called on the city to wait for the state legislature to take action.

Cardinale, the city attorney, said the California Apartment Association reached out to the city arguing that the permits could expire before the eviction process is complete and pushed back against the $15,000 potential fines.

But, Cardinale said the association misunderstood the law. 

“In fact, state law changed relatively recently. Building permits specifically for residential have to be valid for at least a year and then there’s essentially a ministerial extension of that for up to 180 days multiple times,” he said.

Victor Cao, a senior vice president at the California Apartment Association, said during Tuesday’s public comment that sometimes the eviction process can take more than a year.

“So then begs the question of why did we apply for the permit in the first place if we just wasted the time with both staff as well as the applicant?” he said.

“I can’t commence work until I have that notice to vacate as well as the eviction proceeding completed.”

Tuesday’s vote comes as residents and activists push for rent control locally in Buena Park and Orange County, as well as at the state level during California’s worsening housing unaffordability crisis. 

[Read: OC Activists Went to Sacramento to Push for Rent Control; Cops Were Called Instead]

The ordinance also comes after Buena Park City Council members have discussed a handful of policy proposals aimed at helping out renters this year. 

At their March 28 meeting, all Buena Park Council Members seemingly expressed support for some form of rent citywide control 

Some said the rent control ordinance should be stricter than state law, which caps rent bumps to 10% annually. It’s unclear when that proposal will get voted on.

In April, the city council directed staff to come back with a phased rental home inspection program over three year cycles in an effort to hold landlords accountable for critical repairs.

The program isn’t expected to affect rental units in single family homes, duplexes and triplexes.

[Read: Buena Park May Soon Roll Out a New Rental Home Inspection Program]

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Joyce Ahn was the lone dissenting vote on the eviction ordinance and wanted to continue the debate to allow for city staff to meet once more with the Apartment Association of Orange County.

“I’m just not ready to vote on this item today,” Ahn said. “We represent not just renters, we also represent the landlords in our city.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


Since you’ve made it this far,

You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford, but it’s not free to produce. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.