Santa Monica : Rent Control Exemptions

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The city will look at ways to tighten a law that exempts owners of duplexes and triplexes from rent control when the owners occupy one of their rental units.

The City Council, in a 6-2 vote Tuesday, agreed to ask the city attorney’s office to study whether the exemption could be tightened by ordinance or by ballot measure.

“Under the current law, a person can purchase a duplex, evict a tenant, move in, apply for an owner-occupied exemption and then raise the rents. Rent control is not intended to create speculative opportunities in Santa Monica,” said Councilman Dennis Zane, who originally proposed that a measure be placed on November’s ballot.

Zane was trying to resurrect part of a rent control initiative that was disqualified earlier this year because of flaws in petitions circulated in its support.

Zane said future exemptions should be tightly controlled to protect tenants.

He also proposed that rental units already exempt from rent control be allowed to remain so.

“If it’s already under rent control, then keep it under rent control. If it’s already exempt, then keep it exempt,” Zane said.

Council members Christine Reed and Herb Katz opposed the action. Katz said he had not seen evidence of the apartment-speculation that Zane said was happening. Reed said changing the law was a bad political move because small-property owners had been persuaded to support the law when it was first enacted in 1979 because they were promised that the two- and three-unit buildings would be exempt from rent control.

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