Under the Fairfax Rent Ordinance, landlords are permitted to evict all tenants from a rental property and remove the property from the residential rental housing market. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.030. Despite being a lawful just cause for eviction, the landlord must follow strict rules following the Ellis Act eviction. Their failure to comply with the Fairfax Rent Ordinance following results in the Fairfax tenant possessing a claim for wrongful eviction in violation of the Ellis Act.

What is an Ellis Act Eviction?

California law allows landlords to remove a residential rental property from the housing market permanently. Government Code § 7060, et seq. The Ellis Act permits landlords to simultaneously evict all tenants from the property to remove the property from the rental market. The Ellis Act is generally used to change the building’s use into condominiums, tenancies in common, or for the landlord’s personal use. The Fairfax Rent Ordinance requires the landlord possess an intention of completing the withdrawal process and going out of the rental business or demolishing the structure. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.030.

What Happens After a Landlord Removes a Property from the Fairfax Rental Market Through an Ellis Act?

In addition to allowing the landlord to evict all tenants from the building, the Ellis Act mandates several restrictions. First, the landlord may not re-rent any unit in the building for at least two (2) years. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.030. Where the landlord rents a unit at the property before at least two (2) years have elapsed, the landlord shall be liable to the displaced Fairfax tenant for damages, which the court will triple. The Fairfax tenant has three (3) years following the Ellis Act eviction to file the lawsuit.

However, a landlord desiring to re-rent a vacant rental unit recovered pursuant to a Fairfax Ellis Act eviction shall first offer the unit back to the displaced Fairfax tenant, provided the Fairfax tenant provided the landlord written notice of their desire to re-rent the unit within thirty (30) days of leaving their home due to the Ellis Act eviction. Fairfax Town Code §§ 5.54.030, 5.54.060. The Fairfax tenant must also provide the landlord with their address, and continue updating the landlord whenever they change addresses. Where a Fairfax tenant accepts an offer to re-rent their unit, the landlord must reinstate the rental agreement on terms permitted by law to the displaced tenant. The landlord must deposit the offer in the United States mail, by registered or certified mail with postage prepaid, at the Fairfax tenant’s address furnished to the landlord, and shall describe the offer terms. The Fairfax tenant has thirty (30) days from the deposit of the offer in the mail to accept the offer by personal delivery of that acceptance or by deposit of the acceptance in the United States mail by registered or certified mail with postage prepaid.

For all tenancies commenced within five (5) years following the landlord either filing a notice of intent to withdraw the rental unit, or after the Fairfax unit is withdrawn from the rental market, the landlord must offer or lease the rental unit at the lawful rent in effect at the time they filed the notice of intent to withdraw the rental unit as part of effectuating the Fairfax Ellis Act eviction. Fairfax Municipal Code § 5.54.060. Where a landlord seeks to re-list or re-rent a rental unit withdrawn via the Ellis Act within five (5) years, the Fairfax tenant has a right to rent the rental unit first. The landlord must offer the rental unit to the displaced Fairfax tenant within thirty (30) days after notifying the Town of Fairfax of an intention to re-list and re-rent the rental unit again. A landlord’s failure to comply with this requirement subjects them to punitive damages in an amount not exceeding the contract rent for six (6) months.

How Do Fairfax Tenants Notify Their Landlords About Their Entitlement to One (1) Year Notice?

Where a Fairfax tenant facing an Ellis Act eviction is a senior or disabled, the Fairfax tenant must notify their landlord about their status to obtain a one (1) year notice period. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.060. The Fairfax tenant has sixty (60) days following the Town Manager receiving the notice of intent to withdraw to provide written notice.

What Happens Where the Landlord Demolishes the Fairfax Rental Unit Following an Ellis Act Eviction?

If, after recovering possession through the Ellis Act, a landlord demolishes a rental unit, constructs new rental units, and offers them for rent within four (4) years of the date of the Ellis Act eviction, the newly constructed rental unit shall be offered on the basis of a fair and reasonable return. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.060.

What Notice Must Landlords Provide The Town of Fairfax When Performing an Ellis Act Eviction?

A landlord seeking to demolish or withdraw a rental unit from the rental market must provide the Town of Fairfax with a notice stating, under penalty of perjury:

  1. The number of rental units withdrawn;
  2. The address of those rental units;
  3. The name(s) of the tenant(s) being displaced; and,
  4. The lawful rent applicable to each Fairfax rental unit. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.060.

The landlord must also provide written notice to the tenant that they provided the information to the Town of Fairfax, and of the Fairfax tenant’s rights under the Fairfax Rent Ordinance, and, for senior or disabled Fairfax tenants that have resided in their home for at least one (1) year prior to the landlord commencing the Ellis Act eviction, their right to one (1) year notice.

When preparing to re-list a Fairfax rental unit previously withdrawn via the Ellis Act, the landlord must also notify the Town of Fairfax about their intention to re-list the rental unit. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.060.

Do Fairfax Ellis Act Restrictions Continue Applying When a New Landlord Purchase the Building?

Yes, Fairfax Ellis Act restrictions continue applying when a new landlord purchases the building. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.060.

Can Landlords Invoke the Ellis Act on Only Some of the Units at a Fairfax Property?

No, the landlord cannot perform a partial Fairfax Ellis Act eviction. Every unit at the property must receive Ellis Act notices simultaneously.

How Much Notice Must Landlords Provide Fairfax Tenants When Invoking the Ellis Act?

Ellis Act evictions require 120 days’ notice. Government Code § 7060.4; Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.030. However, Fairfax tenants that are at least sixty-two (62) years old or disabled are entitled to one (1) year notice, provided they have resided in their homes for at least one (1) year.

Tenants entitled to one year notice must serve their landlord with written notice of their entitlement to an extension within sixty days of the date the landlord officially informs the government of the Ellis Act eviction. Id.

How Much Relocation Assistance are Fairfax Tenants Entitled for Ellis Act Evictions?

The Fairfax Rent Ordinance provides for relocation assistance when a landlord invokes an Ellis Act eviction. Fairfax tenants displaced under the Ellis Act, must be provided with relocation assistance equal to two (2) months’ rent. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.050. The landlord must provide the relocation assistance when serving the notice of termination of tenancy. If the Fairfax tenant fails to vacate their home, they must return the relocation assistance.

Senior, minor, disabled, and terminally ill tenants are entitled to collect an additional $3,000 in relocation assistance. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.050. Under the Fairfax Rent Ordinance, a senior is anyone that is sixty-two (62) years of age or older. A minor is anyone that is seventeen (17) years of age or younger. A terminally ill tenant must be certified as such by their treating physician.

What Damages May Fairfax Tenants Recover for Landlord Violations of the Fairfax Rent Ordinance?

The Fairfax Rent Ordinance contains a private right of action for landlord violations. Fairfax Town Code §§ 5.54.030, 5.54.070.

Fairfax tenants may seek injunctive relief, equitable relief, and money damages, including actual damages and emotional distress damages for landlord violations of the Fairfax Rent Ordinance. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.030. Where the landlord attempts or actually wrongfully evicts a Fairfax tenant, the Fairfax tenant’s damages are tripled. After the Fairfax tenant prevails at trial, they may recover their reasonable attorney fees.

Where a landlord fails to pay relocation assistance as required by the Fairfax Rent Ordinance, the Fairfax tenant may commence litigation seeking unpaid relocation assistance. Fairfax Town Code § 5.54.050.

To discuss the Fairfax Rent Ordinance, Fairfax Ellis Act Evictions, Fairfax Owner Move-In Evictions, Fairfax Rent Control, Fairfax wrongful evictions, or California Rent Control (AB 1482) with a tenant attorney, contact Astanehe Law.