CITYWIDE — The City Council is tackling a housing law that would give domestic partners the same protection from evictions as married couples.
Councilmembers voted 4-0 in a special meeting last week to remove what city officials said are two hurdles that married couples do not have to face when choosing to move in together. The change, which will become official on a second reading, would conform to state law.
The two hurdles for gays, lesbians or heterosexuals who choose to enter into domestic partnerships, are registering their union with the City Clerk, and serving their landlord with proof of their partnership before they can fight an eviction. Under California law, domestic partnerships, like traditional marriages, are immediately recognized once they are filed with the state.
But, Adam Radinsky, head of the Consumer Protection Unit in the City Attorney’s Office, said the state law is “more limited” on who can be a domestic partner. The state domestic partnership applies only to same-sex couples unless they’re over 62 years old.
Santa Monica’s law is more broad, Radinsky said, with no age or sex requirement. City officials are looking to keep that section.
“The change … [is to] clarify that domestic partners have equal rights as spouses in Santa Monica,” Radinsky said.
Susan Millmann, a senior attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which offers legal services to low-income people, has seen people come in asking about domestic partnerships a couple of times a month.
“The problem with the current law is you have to be a registered partner before you are served the three-day notice,” Millmann said. “It’s almost a catch-22 kind of situation, because you can’t move in and live [together] and be a domestic partner and you can’t be a domestic partner without living together.”
Millmann said the timing is very difficult for domestic partners, but with the new local law, the timing issues would be “eradicated.”
“They’d be treated like married people,” Millmann said.
Amending the law wasn’t in response to specific complaints from domestic partners, Stephen Lewis, general counsel to the Rent Control Board, said. A discrepancy between the local and state law was recognized when a staff member was writing a newsletter article about the general grounds for eviction.
The Rent Control Board prepared a memo to the City Council in December to address the change.
Lewis said as long as domestic partners register with the state, they’re treated as “married.”
“It helps people because it won’t create the false impression that couples who register with the state have to do something they don’t have to do,” Lewis said. “So it really was more of a house keeping measure to make sure our law was in conformity with state law rather than a desire to change something.”
The council is expected to hold the second reading of the law at its meeting next week, Radinsky said.