Redwood City’s newly minted minimum lease requirements and relocation payment assistance ordinances read a little like a prenuptial agreement, depending on how long the landlord and tenant remain in the rental relationship.

Redwood City may have its most memorable slogan as the “Climate Best by Government Test,” but its latest test is for landlords who must now contend with added tenant protections imposed by the government. With over half of Redwood City’s residents renting their home, the seminal Managing Growth Study put tenant protections in the spotlight as part of the city’s brainstorming session on growth and addressing community concerns.

Unlike many other rent-controlled jurisdictions in the Bay Area that have implemented “just cause” eviction measures along with prescribed amounts the rent can be raised,  the entertainment hub of the San Francisco Penninsula has taken an inventive approach to support housing security for renters by focusing on the longevity of the tenancy. It provides carrots and sticks to prolong the rental relationship.

Redwood City’s ordinances require longer-term leases at the inception of the rental relationship and it creates a disincentive for a landlord to evict the tenant before the lease expires by mandating relocation payment assistance in certain circumstances, to cushion the displacement of low-income tenants.

Although the owner must offer a written lease which has a minimum of one year, there is wiggle room at the discretion of the tenant – there is flexibility for the incoming tenant and landlord to negotiate the term of the lease. If the tenant turns down the 12-month rental agreement and enters into another arrangement, though, they must state so in writing to make absolutely sure they know what they are agreeing to and are not bamboozled.

Several exceptions and nuances apply, and you can read the entirety of the law here.

Minimum Lease Terms Ordinance
Relocation Assistance Ordinance

We won’t get lost in the weeds of the ordinances, but instead, pivot to our takes for rental property owners.

Making smart rental decisions

Given that landlord-tenant relationships in Redwood City will often last a full year under the provisions of the new ordinances, we emphasize a heightened need for tenant screening. In an earlier post, we noted that while vetting tenants are a crucially important aspect of landlording, the law and a culture of forgiveness stand to conceal risks. This makes it imperative for all landlords to leave no stone unturned in the tenant screening process and especially Redwood City, where investment property owners may have little choice but to honor a long-term lease.  Daniel touched on the subject of tenant screening here.

A heart to heart conversation about rent amounts?

A fair and balanced article in Mercury News reported some landlords were raising rents with the contingency of Proposition 10 passing, and we were asked to chime in. There, we said that being proactive is good legal counseling and perhaps, raising rents of below-market rates may be prudent in order to anticipate future regulation of rent increases.

In the same spirit, Redwood City landlords should have the same exercise of examing whether current rent amounts are sustainable with fresh tenancies commenced after January 1st, as there will be a scarce opportunity to raise rents once the tenancy starts.

At any rate, rent ordinances, rent increases and relocation payments in any jurisdiction are murky subjects that are best approached with the informed guidance of an attorney. Contact our office for informed advice.

Bornstein Law