Court upholds eviction payout law

The California Supreme Court let stand Wednesday an appellate court ruling that requires landlords to provide relocation money to tenants evicted under the state’s Ellis Act, regardless of a tenant’s income.

“Our law is a reasonable step that provides a basic level of protection for tenants who are subject to the increasing epidemic of Ellis Act evictions,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who proposed the city ordinance that forced landlords to pay relocation fees for all tenants, not just those with low incomes.

The Ellis Act, passed by state legislators in 1986, gave landlords the legal right to evict tenants if they no longer wanted to rent out their housing but sell it on the market instead.

“It’s up to San Francisco’s policymakers — not the courts — to decide how best to alleviate the plight of tenants evicted under the Ellis Act,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

A court decision in April 2005 had ruled state law pre-empted Peskin’s ordinance, but the decision was overturned by a Court of Appeals decision in February.

Tenants evicted under the Ellis Act are entitled to receive $4,500 in relocation assistance, with a cap of $13,500 per household.

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