The Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance
The City of Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance seeks to protect every Richmond tenant from harassment perpetrated by unscrupulous landlords and designed to force families from their homes. By protecting every rental unit in Richmond and providing a private right of action, the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance is a powerful tool protecting tenants throughout Richmond.
Is My Rental Unit Covered Under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
The Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance covers all rental units within the City of Richmond. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.030. The law protects Richmond tenants in all housing, except for rental units in:
- Any hospital, skilled nursing facility, or health facility;
- Any properly licensed nonprofit that provides short-term treatment, assistance, or therapy for alcohol, drug, or other substance abuse, and the housing is provided incidentally to the recovery program, and where the nonprofits provides written notice of the temporary or transitional nature of the housing at the inception of the treatment;
- Any properly licensed nonprofit providing a structured living environment with the primary purpose of helping homeless persons obtain skills necessary for independent living in permanent housing and where the occupancy is restricted to a limited and specific period of not more than twenty-four (24) months, and where the nonprofit provides written notice of the temporary or transitional nature of the housing at the inception of the treatment; and,
- Any hotel or motel rooms where the landlord rents the unit for fewer than thirty days to avoid tenancy status.
The Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Applies to Single-Family Homes & Condominiums
Unlike Richmond Rent Control, the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance applies to single-family homes and condominiums, regardless of age. This means that Richmond tenants in single-family homes and condominiums also enjoy Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance protections.
Does the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Protect Subtenants?
Yes, the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance protects all occupants, including tenants, subtenants, lessees, sublessees, “or any other person entitled under the terms of a rental housing agreement to the use or occupancy of,” the Richmond rental unit. Richmond Municipal Code §§ 11.100.030; 11.103.040.
Does the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Regulate Property Manager Harassment, Too?
Yes, the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance applies to property owners, sublessors, or any other person entitled to receive rent for the use and occupancy of any rental unit, or an agent, representative or their successor. Richmond Municipal Code §§ 11.100.030; 11.103.040.
What Types of Harassment Does the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Prohibit?
The Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance prohibits a landlord, or their employees, from harassing a tenant in bad faith. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.060.
Under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, the following actions constitute unlawful landlord harassment:
- Interrupting, terminating, or failing to provide housing services required by a rental agreement or by law, or threatening to do so. This includes:
- “Curtailing” any utility service, including water, heat, electricity, gas, telephone, cable, internet, garbage and recycling collection, and sewage.
- Impeding reasonable access to the rental unit;
- Removing doors or windows without quickly installing replacement;
- Failing to perform repairs or threatening to fail to perform repairs or maintenance required by the rental agreement or by law;
- Failing to exercise due diligence in completing repairs or maintenance once undertaken or failing to follow appropriate industry repair containment or remediation protocols designed to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, mold, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts;
- Abusing the Richmond landlord’s right to access provided under California Civil Code section 1954, including entering or photographing portions of the rental unit beyond the scope of a lawful entry or inspection;
- Removing from the rental unit personal property, or other items that belong to the tenant or that are part of the housing services without the prior written consent of the tenant, except when done pursuant to the procedures set forth in Civil Code section 1980, et seq.;
- Influencing or attempting to influence a tenant to vacate a rental unit through fraud, intimidation, or coercion, including threatening to report a tenant or other person to the government due to their actual or perceived immigration status;
- Offering payments to a tenant to vacate more than once in six months, after the tenant has notified the landlord in writing the tenant does not desire to receive further offers of payments to vacate;
- Attempting to coerce a tenant to vacate with offer(s) of payments to vacate that are accompanied with threats of intimidation;
- Threatening the tenant, or their guests, by word or gesture, with physical harm;
- Interfering with a tenant’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of a rental unit as that right is defined by California law;
- Violating a law that prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived race, gender, sexual preference, sexual orientation, ethnic background, nationality, place of birth, immigration or citizenship status, religion, age, parenthood, marriage, pregnancy, disability, AIDS, or occupancy by a minor child;
- Refusing to accept or acknowledge receipt of a tenant’s lawful rent payment;
- Refusing to cash a rent check or money order for more than thirty (30) days;
- Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy or requesting information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy, including residency or citizenship or social security number;
- Misrepresenting to a tenant that they are required to vacate a rental unit or otherwise enticing a tenant to vacate through misrepresentations or concealment of material facts;
- Forcing a tenant to vacate their rental unit and reregistering to avoid classification as a tenant under Civil Code section 1940.1, which can be implied from the totality of the circumstances;
- Unilaterally imposing or requiring an existing tenant to agree to material new terms of tenancy or a new rental housing agreement, unless: (1) The change in the terms of tenancy is authorized by the Richmond Rent Ordinance, state law, including California Rent Control, a federal regulatory agreement; or, (2) The change in terms of the tenancy was accepted in writing by the tenant after receipt of written notice from the landlord that the tenant need not accept such new terms as part of the rental agreement; or,
- Other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, peace or quiet of any lawful occupant of the rental unit and that causes, is likely to cause, or is intended to cause the lawful occupant to vacate the rental unit or to surrender or waive any rights concerning the occupancy. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.060.
The Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance prohibits a landlord from removing any of the following amenities, without good cause:
- Garage facilities;
- Parking facilities;
- Storage spaces;
- Laundry rooms;
- Gardens on the same lot;
- Kitchen facilities;
- Toilet facilities; or,
- Lobbies in residential hotels. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.090.
Under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, good cause includes:
- As required by law;
- For units not covered by Richmond Rent Control, and only after the landlord provides written notice that the tenant need not accept the removal, situations where the tenant accepts the removal in writing;
- For units covered by Richmond Rent Control, where a Richmond Rent Board approves the removal; or,
- Where the landlord obtains all required permits, removals resulting from a balcony removal or repair necessary due to safety.
Does the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Contain an Anti-Retaliation Provision?
Richmond tenants that assert their rights under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance are protected from landlord retaliation. Richmond Municipal Ordinance § 11.103.070. However, Richmond tenants may only bring retaliation claims in court, and not at the Richmond Rent Board.
Under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, What Notices Must Richmond Landlords Provide Richmond Tenants at the Inception of a Tenancy?
Landlords must provide written notice to Richmond tenants of their rights under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.080. The Richmond Rent Board prescribes the form of the notice. Every Richmond tenant subject to the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance must receive the written notice at the beginning of the tenancy and attached to any notice of termination of tenancy.
Additionally, the landlord must post the written notice where units covered under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance are located in a building with an interior common area.
Can Richmond Tenants Waive Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance Protections?
No. Richmond tenants cannot waive Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance protections. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.100. Doing so is against public policy, and void and unenforceable.
What Can Richmond Tenants Do When a Richmond Landlord Violates the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Richmond tenants suffering bad faith landlord harassment or retaliation may avail the civil court system by filing a court action. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.110. In court, the tenant may seek an injunction enjoining the landlord, or their agent, from harassing the Richmond tenant. Additionally, the Richmond tenant may seek money damages. Here, the Richmond tenant may recover the greater of either, actual damages and emotional distress damages – both tripled under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance – or $1,000. Punitive damages may also be awarded. And, attorney fees and court costs are also recoverable.
Please note that the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance only triples emotional distress damages where the jury finds that the landlord acted in knowing violation of or reckless disregard of the Ordinance.
Please also note that a prevailing landlord may only recover their attorney fees where, “it is determined by the court that the action was devoid of merit and brought in bad faith.” Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.110.
Under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, where the occupant is disabled under FEHA, or a senior citizen (65+), any person who violates, or aids, or incites another person to violate the Ordinance shall be liable for an additional civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each offense committed. Richmond Municipal Code § 11.103.110.
What Are Examples of Harassing Conduct in Violation of the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Examples of unlawful landlord harassment include, but are not limited to:
- Landlord threatening to call the police on the tenant for failing to pay rent;
- Landlord changing the locks on the tenant for requesting repairs;
- Landlord removing an amenity, such as the use of the building’s laundry facilities, in hopes that the tenant vacates their home;
- The landlord repeatedly demands that the tenant accept $5,000 to vacate their home (a buyout agreement) that the tenant is not interested in accepting;
- Landlord demanding to see the tenant’s immigration status, and threatening to report the tenant to immigration if they do not vacate their home;
- Landlord serving repeated notices to enter the unit for no real reason other than to disturb the tenant and force them out;
- Despite lacking any formal training, the landlord attempts to repair problems themselves in hopes that the tenant vacates the home;
All of these are examples of unlawful harassment. Richmond tenants are protected from such harassment under the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance.
To discuss the Richmond Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, Richmond Ellis Act evictions, Richmond owner move-in or relative move-in evictions, Richmond wrongful eviction, or California Rent Control (AB 1482), contact Astanehe Law to speak with an experienced tenant attorney.
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