Calif. Civil Code §1954.53

Amended to add subsection 4(A) by AB 1620

Effective date: January 1, 2024

Bill text: Residential Rent Control (Costa Hawkins)

Tenants with permanent physical disabilities struggle to find housing with the accessibility and access the tenant needs.

To make arrangements for better housing conditions, a tenant with a permanent disability living in a local rent-controlled unit is now allowed to move to a comparable or smaller unit on an accessible floor in the same property. After the move, the tenant retains the same rental rate and terms of their existing occupancy agreement. [Calif. Civil Code §1654.53(a)(4)(A)]

To be eligible:

  • the move needs to be necessary in order to accommodate the tenant’s mobility-related disability [CC
  • the tenant’s current dwelling or unit does not have access to an operational elevator [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(ii)];
  • the unit must be in the same building or on the same parcel containing four-or-more units owned by the same landlord [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(iii)];
  • the unit meets health and safety code requirements [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(iv)];
  • the local rent control authority determines the landlord will continue to receive a fair rate of return [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(v)];
  • the payment of rent must be current [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(vi)]; and
  • the tenant delivers a written request to the landlord to move into the comparable (or smaller) unit before the unit becomes available. [CC 1654.53(a)(4)(A)(vi)]

Further, the tenant and landlord need to engage in an interactive process to determine whether the move – a swap – is necessary to accommodate the tenant’s disability. [CC §§1654.53(4)(A)]

A comparable or smaller unit has the same or fewer number of:

  • bedrooms and bathrooms;
  • square footage; and
  • parking spaces. [CC §1654.53(a)(4)(D)]

The tenant with a disability is not eligible to swap for a more accessible unit when:

  • the landlord or their spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents or grandparents intend to occupy the unit; or
  • the landlord intends to remove the unit from the residential rental market. [CC §§1654.53(a)(4)(A)(iv); 1654.53(a)(4)(E)]

When the landlord agrees to a unit swap, they prepare an accounting and return the security deposit for the existing unit to the tenant, less any permissible deductions. The tenant on receipt of the refunded deposit then hands the landlord a security deposit on the replacement unit the tenant moves into. [CC §1654.53(a)(4)(B)]

Local rent control issues

The highest number of fair housing complaints received each year in California — by a significant margin — are in regard to disability status, according to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

However, the right-to-swap rule does not affect all tenants with mobility-related disabilities living in rent control units. Local rent control ordinances do not apply to:

  • housing constructed after February 1, 1995;
  • single family homes and condominiums that are separate from the title to any other dwelling unit in a multi-unit property; and
  • housing already exempt from a local rent control law on or before February 1, 1995. [CC §1954.52(a)]

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