New Palo Alto Ordinance Tightens Tenant Protections

Landlord & Tenant Law, Landowner Liability, Legal Update, Real Estate Law, and Unlawful Detainers & Evictions by Ashlee D. Gonzales, Esq.

As is well known now since the passing of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, as well as subsequent bills resulting from the effects of COVID-19, tenants in California have been afforded protections both from rent increases and evictions without cause. For most California properties, landlords may only evict a tenant from a residential property if they have ‘Just Cause’. Just Cause is broken down into two categories: 1) at-fault causes; and 2) no-fault causes. At-fault causes relate to something the tenant did wrong, including nonpayment of rent, breach of the lease, illegal activity, etc. No-fault causes relate to something the landlord must do that requires the tenant to vacate, including owner move-in eviction, remodeling of the property, removing property from rental market, etc. These protections are codified under Civil Code Section 1946.2.

For a residential tenant to receive these Just Cause protections at the State level, they must lawfully occupy the property for at least 12 consecutive months. Up and until then, the landlord does not need cause to remove a tenant. Now, the City of Palo Alto has shortened the amount of time a tenant needs to lawfully occupy a property before they are afforded Just Cause protections. Due to the passing of Ordinance No. 5592 on August 21, 2023, tenants in the City of Palo Alto need only occupy the property for 6 consecutive months to receive Just Cause protections. There still are some exemptions to the Just Cause requirements depending on the type of property involved, but as of September 21, 2023, the 6-month minimum requirement will apply within the City limits.

Ordinance No. 5592 Explained

Ordinance No. 5592, adopted by the City of Palo Alto on August 21, 2023, is an amendment to Chapter 9.68 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code. As explained, the ordinance shortens the minimum occupation time period required for renters to qualify for just cause protections. Instead of the minimum 12 months required previously under State law, Ordinance No. 5592 shortens that time period to 6 months.

The City’s justification in making such an amendment includes the statistics that renters represent a significant percentage of Palo Alto’s population, with a need to ensure that housing is provided for all people of all income levels, and affirmatively further fair housing. Additionally, the City declared there is a growing shortage of, but increasing demand for, housing in the City. The City found that renters are entitled to a contractual relationship with a landlord that offers some assurance of stability and fair treatment under the terms of a written lease to minimize displacement.

Furthermore, they claim that Palo Alto is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country, which is one factor that can lead to potential renters being unable to afford standard rental unit move-in costs within the City. Considering this, the City wants to prevent renters from having to relocate without cause as the cost to relocate within the City is much higher than neighboring cities and counties, resulting in many renters being priced out of the area once removed from their rental unit.

While AB 1482 (codified by Civil Code 1946.2) provides some renter protections under the Just Cause requirements, the City’s Human Relations Commission held a public meeting in February 2023, wherein they recommended the City to adopt several additonal tenant protections. As a result, on June 5, 2023, the City Council directed staff to draft an ordinance that reduces the occupancy timeframe for Palo Alto renters to qualify for eviction protections that is more protective than AB 1482. Per the law surrounding this issue, when the City’s laws are more protective than State laws as it relates to residential tenancies, City laws will apply.

Per the language of the Ordinance, the protections will go into effect 30 days after the adoption of the Ordinance. That being said, the minimum occupancy requirement for Just Cause for City renters will be reduced to 6 months as of September 21, 2023. If you have any questions or concerns about this Ordinance or other landlord-tenant matters, we would be happy to assist. We handle these types of cases on a daily basis and are well versed in the laws surrounding these issues. For other landlord-tenant related articles, check out our law blog at:

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