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Santa Monica will hold a forum Dec. 5 to inform tenants and landlords about new local and state laws that impact them.

The most recent law the forum will cover is an ordinance passed by Santa Monica City Council in May that protects students and educators against no-fault evictions during the school year. Speakers will also go over City laws passed in the last couple of years, including one that bans discrimination against tenants who use housing subsidies and another that sets rules for landlords trying to buy out tenants.

Adam Radinsky, chief deputy with the City Attorney’s consumer protection division, said the annual event helps clear up some of the confusion between tenants and landlords.

“Landlord-tenant relationships in Santa Monica has always been tricky, with a lot of conflict and misunderstanding,” he said. “But most owners and tenants want to follow the law.”

Santa Monica landlords often try to evict tenants covered under the city’s famous rent control laws so they can rent units at market rates. They may try to buy out rent-controlled tenants, which is legal in the City, or harass them into leaving, which City Council declared to be unlawful about 20 years ago.

“One of the common things we see is aggressive and intrusive inspections, where landlords will have photographs taken or enter the apartment under the pretext of checking smoke alarms, and basically intimidate the tenant into leaving,” Radinsky said.

The school-year evictions law prevents harmful interruptions to children’s schooling, Radinksy said, while the housing subsidies discrimination law keeps landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income.

“We’ve already had a few cases where we had to educate landlords about the (discrimination) law and get the action they had taken reversed,” he said.

Tracy Condon, executive director of the Rent Control Board, said the forum will be an important chance for tenants and landlords to learn about the process of buying out rent-controlled apartments. Tenants can vacate a rent-controlled unit in exchange for a payment negotiated with the landlord.

Landlords must submit buyout agreements to the Board under City law, which are then made public so other tenants can see the going rates for buyouts. But Condon said many landlords are buying out tenants without submitting an agreement, and some landlords have coerced tenants to accept buyouts.

“It’s important to make sure people are aware of and understand the regulations they’re working under,” she said.

The forum will be held Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Avenue Park, located at 2200 Virginia Avenue in Santa Monica. Registration is required by Dec. 1 at smconsumer.org or by calling (310) 458-8691.

madeleine@smdp.com

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