Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition

About Our Charter Amendment

The Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Charter Amendment

Our charter amendment has four main components:

  •  To the extent allowed by State law, rent increases would be limited to 75% of inflation every year after a tenancy is established. 

  • 75% of inflation typically works out to around 2-3% each year. This means the amount of time it would take for the rent to double is about 35 years. 

  • This would not set rents for new tenancies. 

  • If a landlord can prove that their operating expenses have increased, they can petition for a special one-time rent increase. 

  • If a tenant can prove that the services provided or quality of their unit has decreased, they can petition for a special one-time rent decrease. 
  • Landlords would only be able to evict tenants after providing a reason ("just cause"). 

  • Some allowed reasons for evictions are "at fault" just causes like non-payment of rent, breach of lease, and refusal to give access for necessary repairs. 

  • Other reasons for evictions are "no fault" just causes like the landlord permanently removing the unit from the rental market, or a government order to vacate the unit. 

  • If a tenant is evicted for a "no fault" reason, our amendment would provide additional help to the tenant. Landlords would have to pay relocation assistance to help them move, and if the landlord has a comparable unit available, the tenants being displaced would have first choice of that unit. 
  • A rental board appointed by city council, but otherwise independent of it, would be created to implement the provisions of the charter amendment. 

  • The rental board has seven tenant members (one from each district of Pasadena) and four "at-large" members. 

  • The rental board is salaried, so that low-income tenants can afford to participate on it. 

  • The rental board salaries will be paid by a per-unit flat fee on any landlords wishing to rent out residential units in Pasadena. 
  • A rental registry would be created which would keep track of all the rental units in the city and the history of the rent charged at that rental unit. 

  • This will help housing advocates, local government, and the rental board make informed decisions about housing policy. 

  • It will also allow tenants to verify that a unit is legal before signing a lease, and see if the landlord has a history of frequent rent increases. 

The full text of the charter amendment is available as a PDF at the link below. An executive summary is also provided on this page.

Read charter amendment
Landlords should not be allowed to evict tenants without just cause. Rents should not be allowed to increase astronomically from one year to the next. Because we lack these basic protections, my family is being forced to leave Pasadena to find a place we can afford. We will continue to commute here. My work is here. My grandsons’ friends are here. Our home is still here in Pasadena. But we are being displaced.
- Nate Cook, Fourth Generation Pasadenan and Single Grandfather
Executive Summary
What follows is a condensed version of the charter amendment proposed for the November 2022 ballot. The content of this proposal is presented section-by-section as it appears in the amendment. The bullet points are condensed versions of the key policy points within each section, and are intended to give the reader a holistic picture of the aims of the amendment. As such, this document may be better described as a reader’s guide or “cliff’s notes” than a summary. Many policy details have been omitted entirely, so interested readers are referred to the full text!
1802: Findings
  • 57% of Pasadena’s 140,000 residents are renters. 67.7% of Latinx households and 69.7% of African American households are renters.

  • More than 50% of the City’s tenants are considered “rent burdened”, meaning that they pay more than 30% of household income in rent. 27% of Pasadena’s tenants are considered “severely rent burdened”, meaning they spend over half their incomes on housing.

  • The median gross rent in Pasadena has increased by 32.0 percent (from $1287 to $1669) between 2012 and 2018 while the Consumer Price Index (all items in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, all urban consumers, not seasonally adjusted) has increased by 12.4 percent over the same period, resulting in an effective 17.5 percent increase in median rent in 2018 inflation-adjusted dollars between 2012 and 2018.

  • In 2018 alone, the City’s median rent increased by 27% for an efficiency unit, 17% for a one bedroom unit, and 18% for a two bedroom unit.

  • A staggering 89.4% of Pasadena renters making between $10,000 and $50,000 annually are rent burdened, and 60.3% of renters in this income bracket are severely rent burdened.

  • According to the Pasadena Draft 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan, “Severe cost burden is the greatest predictor of homelessness risk. Populations paying more than 50 percent of their income towards housing costs or having incomes at or below 50 percent AMI have the greatest risk of becoming homeless” The fastest-growing segment of the population experiencing homelessness are seniors.

  • Pasadena landlords have been repeatedly advised by attorneys specializing in evictions to raise rents in anticipation of both statewide and local rent control and tenant protection laws. Pasadena’s local tenant protections are weak and ineffective, and tenants have no representation on City Council.

  • 1803: Definitions
    This section contains many important definitions. Some are technical, and some represent important policy points. We have omitted all but two here. These two definitions are necessary to understand major policy points summarized in this document

  • Base Rent: The base rent shall be either the Rent in effect on the date of submission of this article to the City of Pasadena for Title and Summary for those tenancies commencing before or on this date, or the rental rate paid by the Tenant upon initial occupancy for those tenancies commencing after the submission date, provided that amount is not a violation of this Article or any provision of state law. The year in which the article is submitted will be considered the “base year” for the purposes of determining a Landlord’s operating income.

  • Material Interest in Rental Property: An individual has a Material Interest in Rental Property if they, or any member of their Extended Family, own, manage, or have an 5% or greater ownership stake in Rental Units in the county of Los Angeles, or if they or any member of their Extended Family owned, managed, or had a 5% or greater ownership stake in Rental Units in the county of Los Angeles in the past three (3) years.

  • 1804: Exemptions
    Fully Exempt (from both rent stabilization and just cause for eviction protections):

  • Hotels, motels, boarding houses, rooming houses, etc. provided stays are less than thirty days. If a stay exceeds thirty days, the tenancy is no longer exempt.

  • Rental units in hospitals, convents, monasteries, dormitories, etc.

  • Affordable housing tax credit units. Units subsidized with government funds.

    Partially Exempt (from rent stabilization only):

  • Units subject to Costa Hawkins

  • The City’s Inclusionary Units and Density Bonus Units, to the extent required by law.

  • 1805: Additional Homeowner Protections
    Some additional partial exemptions to allow homeowners flexibility in renting out rooms within their own homes.

  • Temporary tenancies (less than 12 months) within the homeowner’s primary residence are Fully Exempt.

  • Tenancies in the homeowner’s primary residence, and in which the tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the homeowner are Fully Exempt.
  • 1806: Just Cause Eviction Protections
    Tenants may be evicted for:

    1. Failure to pay rent - after receiving written notice to cease

    2. Breach of lease - after receiving written notice to cease

      • Tenant cannot be evicted for creating a sublease in violation of the lease provided:
        • Tenant still resides in the unit, and The sublease replaces departed tenants on a one-for-one basis, and:
        • The landlord has unreasonably withheld the right to sublease following written request from the tenant.

      • Protections for families: the Tenant cannot be evicted for violating the lease agreement by:
        • Adding to the Rental Unit the Tenant’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, other dependent relative, or the spouse or domestic partner of such relatives, or the Tenant’s spouse or domestic partner.
        • Adding to the Rental Unit a single additional adult Tenant.
        • None of these exceptions apply if the addition of a Tenant would cause the number of occupants to exceed the maximum number of occupants allowed by Cal. Health and Safety Code.

    3. Nuisance - after receiving written notice to cease

    4. Using the unit for an illegal purpose

    5. Refusal to execute a new lease Provided the terms of the new lease are materially the same as those of the previous lease.

    6. Failure to give access Provided the Tenant has received proper notice, and the Landlord intends to access the unit for the purpose of making repairs, inspection permitted or required by law, or for showing the Unit to any prospective purchaser or mortgagee.

    7. Subtenant in sole possession: The person in possession of the Unit at the end of a lease term is a subtenant not approved by the Landlord.

    8. Necessary and Substantial Repairs Requiring Temporary Vacancy Landlord must have all required permits and must have provided written notice to Tenant. City has verified that work will render the Unit uninhabitable for at least 30 days. Tenant can elect one or both of Right of first refusal to another vacant unit owned by the Landlord. First right of return to reoccupy their Unit upon completion.

    9. Owner Move-In The Landlord seeks to use the Unit as a primary residence for themselves or their spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents, or grandparents. Landlord must give six months written notice to Tenant. Landlord must be a natural person. Landlord or relative must occupy Unit for at least thirty-six consecutive months. Extra protections for elderly/disabled Tenants.

    10. Permanent WIthdrawal of Unit from Rental Market Pursuant to the Ellis Act, Landlord may evict all Tenants if they intend to withdraw the whole property from the market and go out of the rental business, or to demolish the property. Landlord must file documents with the Rental Board Tenants must receive 180 day written notice. Longer for senior or disabled Tenants.

    11. Government Order Government order to vacate, abate, comply, etc. To the extent allowed by state law, Tenant must receive advance notice and must be able to elect right of first refusal or first right of return, similar to case of Necessary and Substantial Repairs.
    Relocation Assistance

    If a landlord wishes to evict Tenants for one of causes (8-11), the so called “no-fault” causes (because they are not the fault of the Tenant), they must provide monetary relocation assistance to the Tenant.

  • Rental board will determine amount of relocation assistance appropriate to ensure Tenant is able to secure new housing.

  • Landlord must pay 50% of the required amount within ten days of service of written notice of termination to Tenant. Landlord may pay remaining 50% either directly to the Tenant no later than twenty-eight days before notice of termination expires.

  • Landlord may also opt to pay the remaining 50% into an escrow account within the same timeframe. The amount within the escrow account will be disbursed to the Tenant when they vacate the unit.

  • If the Unit is exempted from rent stabilization, the Landlord must provide relocation assistance to any Tenant household displaced from their Unit due to an inability to pay Rent increases in excess of five percent plus the most recently announced annual adjustment (described later in the rent stabilization section). Right of return and first right of refusal. Tenants whose tenancy is terminated under causes (8-11) have both right of return and first right of refusal, as described above.

    Security Deposits

  • No Landlord shall increase a security or other deposit as a condition of continued occupancy of a Unit subject to this article. Landlords must pay interest annually on all deposits.

    Retaliation is barred.

  • Broadly speaking, Landlords are prohibited from using any aspect of their control over a Tenant’s housing to retaliate against them for exercising their rights under this article, including creating or participating in Tenant Organizations (e.g. PTU).

  • Demonstrable retaliation constitutes a defense to an attempted eviction. May also allow the Tenant to seek damages and injunctive relief.

  • Presumption of retaliation if the Tenant engages in protected activity up to twelve months prior to the Landlord’s issuance of a written notice to cease (which must precede an eviction).

    Harassment is Prohibited.

  • Landlords are prohibited from using any aspect of their control over a Tenant’s housing to harass them as part of an attempt to increase Rent above the maximum amount allowed by this article. The legal protections afforded to Tenants in this case are similar to those outlined for Retaliation (above).

  • 1807: Stabilization of Rents
  • Once this article comes into effect, no Landlord may charge rent in excess of an initial base rent (see Section 1803: Definitions above) plus a compounding percentage annual upward adjustment.

  • The annual adjustment is generally determined by the Annual General Adjustment, described in the summary of Section 1808 below. 

  • However, there is a petition process in which Tenants and Landlords can argue for upwards or downwards adjustments of rent on an individual basis. This process is described in the summaries of sections 1813 and 1814 below. 

  • Tenants must be notified of this article upon commencement of their Tenancy.  

  • 1808: Rent Increases Pursuant to Annual General Adjustment
  • By September 1 each year, the Rental Board (an appointed administrative board described below) will announce the Annual General Adjustment (AGA): the maximum allowable percentage by which Landlords may raise rents on ongoing Tenancies each year. The increase becomes effective on October 1st of that year.

  • Landlords may only make one upward adjustment per year, and these adjustments compound annually.

  • The AGA will be set equal to 75% of the annual percentage increase in CPI for the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County region.

  • Beginning on the effective date of this article, all rents for covered Units must revert to the Base Rent specified in Section 1803: Definitions. This will occur ten days after City Council announces the results of the election. On September 1 following this announcement (September 1, 2023), the newly appointed Rental Board will announce the Annual General Adjustment for the following year using 75% of the CPI increase from March 2022 to March 2023. 

  • The first rent increase a Landlord may impose pursuant to this article may not take effect until October 1st, 2022.

  • For tenancies established before the submission date of the amendment, the Annual General Adjustment will be the percentage increase in CPI from the submission date to March 2022. For tenancies established after the submission date, the Annual General Adjustment will be the percentage increase in CPI from the initial date of the Tenancy to March 2022. In subsequent years, the Annual General Adjustment will be, uniformly, the annual percentage increase in CPI between the March of that year and the previous year.

  • Landlords must perform the annual adjustment within the twelve month period following the October 1st AGA-effective-by date. They may not defer one year’s adjustment to a subsequent year.

  • The Rental Board will publish a schedule indicating the first Annual Adjustment allowed based on the start date of the relevant Tenancy to simplify the process of adjustments in the initial year.

  • Landlords must give Tenants thirty days’ notice before increasing rent.

  • Landlords may not increase rent if they have failed to comply with all provisions of this article, or they have failed to maintain the Rental Unit in compliance with applicable health and safety codes, or they have failed to make repairs ordered by the Rental Board or the City of Pasadena.

  • 1809: Initial Rents for New Tenancies
    To the extent required by state law, Landlords may set the initial Rent for new Tenants without regulation by this Article. In particular, Costa Hawkins prohibits local rent control measures from controlling the rent at which Tenancies are initially offered. Instead, as described above, we limit annual increases on ongoing Tenancies.

    1810: Tenant Buyout Notification Program
    A “voluntary vacancy arrangement” or “cash for keys arrangement” is one in which a Tenant agrees to voluntarily vacate their Unit in return for a cash payment from the Landlord. To promote fairness during buyout negotiations and agreements, this section requires Tenants be informed of their rights under this Article before executing a Buyout Agreement.

    The buyout agreement must be provided to the Tenant on a standard form prepared by the Rental Board which must be signed and dated by both parties. On this form, the Tenant shall be informed that they have forty-five days from the date of signing to cancel the agreement with no penalty. The form will also advise the tenant that they have the right to refuse a buyout agreement and the right to consult an attorney and/or the Rental Board before signing the agreement. The Landlord must file the executed agreement with the Rental Board.

    1811: Pasadena Rental Housing Board
  • The Article establishes a Pasadena Rental Housing Board (the “Rental Board”) comprised of eleven members. Seven members must be Pasadena Tenants. The City Council will appoint one Tenant member from each district of the City.

  • None of the Tenant members may have any Material Interest in Rental Property (see summary of section 1803: definitions). At any time during their service.

  • The remaining four “at-large” members are also appointed by the City Council, and may reside in any district of Pasadena, may or may not be Tenants, and may or may not have Material Interest in Rental Property.

  • Board members will serve staggered terms of four years (some initial members will therefore serve two years).

  • Board members may be recalled by the public through a petition process.

    Powers and Duties:
  • Compute and publish Annual General Adjustment amounts.

  • Establish rules and regulations necessary for the administration and enforcement of this article.

  • Appoint Hearing Officers to conduct hearings on petitions for individual rent adjustment (described in sections 1813, 1814 below).

  • Delegate authority to adjudicate petitions to Hearing Officers as appropriate, and to act as an appellate body for the decisions made by Hearing Officers.

  • Establish procedures and timelines for these hearings.

  • Establish a budget for the reasonable and necessary implementation of the provisions of this article.

  • Report quarterly to the the City Council on the status of Rental Units subject to this article.

  • Establish a schedule of penalties that may be imposed for noncompliance with this article, or with rules and regulations established by the Rental Board.

  • Pursue civil remedies as provided by this article in courts of appropriate jurisdiction. Intervene as an interested party in litigation brought by a Landlord or Tenant with respect to Rental Units subject to this article.

  • Establish and maintain a Rental Registry, described in the summary of Section 1812 below.

  • Others not mentioned in this summary! Compensation

  • Board members will be compensated for their time in accordance with the number of hours committed to board work.

  • The Rental Board will finance the expenses necessary to effectuate this article by charging Landlords an annual Rental Housing Fee. The amount of this fee will be determined by the Rental Board. This fee may not be passed through to Tenants, though it may be claimed as an operating expense for the purposes of a petition for upward adjustment in rent.

  • The City will advance the funds required to initially implement this Article. The Rental Board will repay the City with revenue from the Rental Housing Fee.

    Conflict of Interest:
  • Rental Board members are disqualified from ruling on a petition if they have Material Interest in a Rental Property involved in the Petition, or are a Tenant at that Property, or have an Extended Family member who is a Tenant at the Property.

  • 1812: Rental Registry
    The Rental Board will create a Rental Registry to collect data about Covered Rental Units (units not fully exempt from the article) to provide the City with insight into the status of Rental Housing in Pasadena, and crucially, into the stock of affordable Rental Housing.

    The Rental Board will also create an online portal to disseminate some of this data to the public.

    The Rental Registry and online portal will be operational within one year of the effective date of this article.

    All owners of property containing Covered Rental Units must submit an annual Registry form.

    This form collects, among other types of data,

  • Property addresses and Unit numbers, legal name of owner or ownership entity for each Property.

  • Unit attributes, such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. Beginning and end dates of all tenancies (if any) begun or terminated over the past year.

  • The amount of rent collected over the past year for each Unit during each month of occupation.

  • Utilities, services, and other amenities included in the rent for each Unit

    The Rental Board will maintain an online portal which publicizes, among other things,

  • The maximum lawful rent for each Unit at each Property

  • The actual rent charged each month the Unit was occupied

  • The beginning and end dates of all tenancies in that Unit

  • Unit attributes, such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.

    The Rental Board may also publish information about violations of housing codes or of this article pertaining to a given Unit or Property through the online portal, in an effort to bring transparency to the behavior of landlords in Pasadena. The Board will establish regulations which limit these publications in order to respect the privacy of Tenants and abide by applicable law.

    The Board will periodically collect, analyze, and publish reports on the status of rental housing in Pasadena using this and other sources of data.

  • 1813: Petitions for Individual Rent Adjustment
    Landlords and Tenants may file petitions for upward or downward adjustments of rent on an individual basis for a number of reasons.

    Petitions for Upward Adjustment: Fair Return

    Landlords have the right, under this article, to obtain a net operating income equal to the base year net operating income adjusted by fifty percent of the change in Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the base year.

    Operating income is defined carefully in the full text of the amendment, but does account for necessary expenses towards repairs, maintenance, and improvements. Exceptional circumstances which affected the operating income in the base year. Others in the full text.

    Petitions for Downward Adjustment

  • Failure to maintain habitable premises: Tenants may petition for a downward adjustment if the landlord has failed to maintain the Unit, as this constitutes a loss in value of the Unit.

  • Decrease in housing services or maintenance: Tenants may petition for a downward adjustment if the landlord has reduced housing services or reduced maintenance services, or otherwise has allowed the Unit to deteriorate beyond normal wear-and-tear, as these circumstances constitute a loss in value of the Unit.

  • Unlawful rent: Tenants may petition for a downward adjustment in rent if the Landlord has charged an amount of rent above the maximum lawful rent allowed by this article.

    If the petition is granted, the Landlord must adjust the rent downward to a lawful level moving forward. The landlord must also return any excessive rent charged. If the Landlord fails to return this rent within thirty days of the issuance of an order to do so, the Hearing Officer or Rental Board may authorize the Tenant to withhold a fraction of the downward-adjusted rent for a time sufficient to effectively return to them the excessive rent charged. A withholding order will constitute an affirmative defense to eviction for nonpayment of rent during the withholding period.

    In all scenarios, the petitioner (whether Tenant or Landlord) must present evidence and documentation establishing grounds for their claim.

  • 1814: Petitions for Individual Rent Adjustment - Procedures
    The Rental Board will specify detailed rules and regulations for the petition process, but an outline is provided within the text of the amendment. It will be roughly summarized here.

    The Rental Board will appoint one or more Hearing Officers (paid staff) who will conduct open hearings (unless prohibited by law) to determine the facts underlying a petition for adjustment of rent, and subsequently to render a decision based on the merits of the petition.

    The Hearing Officer will collect evidence, records, documents, etc. from each party involved in a petition, and may conduct inspections of the Unit(s) in question. The Hearing Officer will not grant any petition for adjustment unless it is supported by the preponderance of the evidence submitted prior to and during the hearing.

    Any party to the petition aggrieved by the decision of the Hearing Officer may appeal to the full Rental Board for review.

    1815: Judicial Review
    Any party aggrieved by an action or decision of the Rental Board may seek judicial review in a court of appropriate jurisdiction, pursuant to state law, the provisions of the amendment, and its implementing regulations.

    1816: Non-Waiveability
    No lease agreement may waive any provision of this article.
    1817: Remedies
    Landlord’s demand or retention of excessive rent Tenants may either file a petition for downward adjustment (and recovery) of excessive rent (see Section 1813) or file a civil suit against the Landlord. In a civil suit, a Landlord found to have violated this article will be liable to to the Tenant for all actual damages. If it is shown that the landlord acted willfully or with malice, the Tenant will be awarded treble damages.

    Tenants may or may not choose to file a petition before seeking such a civil remedy. If the landlord has recovered possession of a Unit on grounds of some events specified in Section 1806 (example: owner move-in), but has not actually initiated that event within two months of the Tenant’s vacation, or has acted in bad faith or made a false claim, the Tenant will be entitled to regain possession at the old rent. If a landlord fails to comply with any provision of this article, or regulation promulgated by the Rental Board, Tenants may raise this as an affirmative defense in an eviction case (unlawful detainer). Victims of domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault, or stalking who are given notice to vacate based on acts consituting the violence, assault, abuse, or stalking (e.g. if construed as noise violations or nuisances by the landlord) may raise this circumstance as an affirmative defense to an eviction.

    The Rental Board or City Attorney may bring a civil action against a Landlord on the Tenant’s behalf. The Tenant may opt in or out of the action.

    The Rental Board may establish fines as penalties for violations of provisions of this article or of their regulations. Landlords who violate this article may also be charged with a misdemeanor under Section 1.24.010 of Pasadena Municipal Code.

    1818: Injunctive and Other Civil Relief
    The Rental Board, Tenants, and Landlords may seek enforcement of this article or restraint of violations of this article in courts of appropriate jurisdiction.
    1819 - 1824 (Technical sections)
    Section 1819: Partial Invalidity

    If any part of the article is deemed invalid, other, severable parts of the article will remain valid.

    Section 1820: Supersedes

    Roughly, this article supersedes any conflicting provisions of an existing municipal ordinance. It also supersedes any conflicting initiative ordinance. If there is a conflicting charter amendment, it will supersede that amendment where the two conflict if it receives more votes than that amendment. Where the two do not conflict, the provisions of this article will still apply.

    Section 1821: Conflicting Charter Provisions

    Any provisions of this article which conflict with other existing provisions of the Pasadena City Charter will govern. It does not, however, supersede any provisions of the Charter not related to the provisions of this article.

    Section 1822: Codification

    The City Clerk and City Attorney will properly and efficiently codify this amendment into the City Charter without altering any substantive provision of this article.

    Section 1823: Duty to Defend

    The City Attorney must zealously defend this article against legal challenges. Otherwise, a third party may intervene to defend the article.

    Section 1824: Majority Approval, Effective Date, Execution

    The amendment is effective only if approved by a majority of voters, and will go into effect ten days after the vote is declared by City Council.
    Summary Video

    The following presentation goes over the basics of our charter amendment and the problems facing Pasadena tenants it hopes to address.