SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a new ordinance aimed at protecting tenants being harassed by their landlords or property owners when they speak out about bad conditions in their living spaces.
The item was heard for first and second readings in September.
The rules prohibit landlords from increasing rent, failing to provide services or repairs, releasing private information about tenants or giving them false or misleading information in an attempt to evict them. Also included is a prohibition on inquiring about citizenship status, and discriminating based on race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity and religion, among other things.
Landlords also cannot evict tenants for organizing or advocating for tenants’ rights.
Those who violate the rules could be forced to pay attorneys’ fees and other costs as ordered by the court.
“We remain concerned that the local housing market is fostering injustices for our local tenants,” Board Chair Manu Koenig said. “With homeownership inaccessible to many, these measures are necessary to stabilize housing for the 40 percent of our residents who are renters.”
County officials say the new ordinance is an attempt to “stabilize neighborhoods and prevent homelessness.”
It comes weeks after a report showing Santa Cruz County as the second most expensive place to rent in the U.S.
Within Santa Cruz County, someone making minimum wage must work the equivalent of four full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom unit at market rates, according to County spokesman Jason Hoppin.
The County’s 2022 Point-In-Time Count also showed that evictions are the leading cause of homelessness locally.
The rules allow landlords to evict problem tenants, when done legally.