An ugly termite report comes back and suddenly the Jones-Chavez family must find temporary housing while their landlord has their rental house fumigated. Not an easy task given that Stan Jones and Irma Chavez have three children, along with two dogs and a cat.

The good news is that they will have help. In most cases, Santa Monica law requires property owners to get their tenants a place to live, and pay most expenses, when they’re forced to vacate temporarily. Examples include:

  • When the unit is deemed “uninhabitable” (no working bathroom, no hot water, etc.)
  • Any time a government agency requires tenants to vacate by law

In these cases, the landlord must provide a temporary apartment, or pay the tenant a daily amount to cover the interim housing cost. The obligations vary depending on how long the tenant needs to be out. In general, any temporary housing has to be comparable to the original place, including in location, size, number of bedrooms, other amenities, and proximity to services the tenant needs.

The landlord is not required to pay for relocation caused by a natural disaster. Also, if a condition (such as a fire) was mainly caused by a tenant or her guest, that tenant does not get relocation benefits – but the other tenants at the property do.

The City Council each year sets the daily amounts the owner must pay to cover the tenant’s hotel, meals, laundry and pet boarding. Effective July 1, 2017, the current amounts are:

 

  • Hotel or motel:         $158 per day (per household)
  • Meal expenses:         $ 30 per day (per person)

 

The landlord must also pay most costs for moving, storage, and a per diem for any pet lodging ($29 for cats, $52 for dogs).

The tenant has the right to return to the unit once repairs are done, under the same terms as before. (A landlord can’t use the opportunity to move the tenants’ belongings out, or try to force them to permanently vacate.)

While they’re being relocated, tenants must continue to pay their regular rent to the landlord.

If the landlord chooses to provide temporary housing but the tenant rejects it and decides to seek different accommodations (for example, the Chavez-Jones family decides to go camping or stays with friends during the relocation period), the landlord is not required to pay the applicable per diem amounts or keep the comparable housing open to the tenant after the rejection.  If the landlord agrees to provide the per diem, the tenant is free to spend the per diem as he or she wishes, or simply to keep it (such as by staying with a friend free of charge).

In most cases, the landlord and tenant work out an agreement about how the tenant will be temporarily housed. This arrangement doesn’t have to comply exactly with the legal requirements.

If you want more information about temporary relocation, call the City’s Code Enforcement Division at (310) 458-4984.

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