San Jose Renters Cheer New Protections, Now Tackle New Issue

San Jose is ready to embark on a new era when renters will have more protection from unfair or no-cause evictions. But another issue could surface quickly.

A divided City Council on Tuesday passed a tenant protection ordinance on a 6-5 vote before a packed crowd at City Hall. But even as renters and advocates celebrated, there was new fear to consider: Until the ordinance goes into effect, upset landlords might take out their frustrations on innocent, law-abiding tenants.

It wasn't clear exactly when the new ordinance would take effect, but NBC Bay Area learned it would be at least two weeks if it is deemed an urgency ordinance and as long as two months if it isn't given urgency status. Either way, renters will be vulnerable.

Activists found out as much last year during a fight over rent control.

"Well, we're really concerned because last time that we had a lapse, landlords took advantage of that, and there was an increase in evictions and an increase in rent increases," said Shaunn Cartwright of the South Bay Tenants Union. "So that's what we're afraid is going to happen again."

City Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand, who spearheaded the ordinance, agreed, saying tenants whose leases expire during this time are very vulnerable.

"We're doing the best we can, which is to try to come back with the urgency ordinance," she said.

Morales-Ferrand confirmed there no way to protect tenants during the down time "because the landlords are acting within their right to terminate a lease with no reason."

Activists who crashed the city's ComicCon announcement Tuesday said they'll do the same thing to landlords.

"We're going to raise our voices loud and strong and let them know that it's not OK," Cartwright said.

On Wednesday, activists appealed to the council's Rules Committee to try to get the urgency ordinance vote moved up a week earlier to next Tuesday. But the committee, made up of many members on the losing end of Tuesday night's vote, rejected it.

A vote on when the law will go into effect is set to take place May 9.

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