When the Air Force assigned Lyndsey and Sharon Ballinger to Washington, D.C.in 2015, the Ballingers kept their Oakland, California, house and rented it out on a month-to-month lease so they could move back. But when the Ballingers returned to Oakland last spring, anew city law forced them to pay their tech-sector tenants $6,500 to vacate the house before the Ballingers could move back into their own home Both of us felt like we were punched in the stomach,” Lyndsey Ballinger said. “We ended up paying and it was just awful. Especially when our lease was written and signed prior to the law being passed. That made no sense.”
The law’s intent is to help tenants who are displaced when property owners elect to take their homes off the rental market so they or a relative can live there. However, even the best intentions to help people can’t violate constitutional protections. When Sharon finished her doctorate program this spring, the couple and their two small children were ready to come home. But under a new city law, the Ballingers had to pay their tech sector tenants nearly $7,000 to move out, before they could move back into their own home. The ordinance, which took effect in January, is the city’s effort to help tenants who are displaced when property owners want to take their property off the rental market so they or a relative can live there.
Owners can turn out tenants only if they pay a so-called relocation fee – $6,500 to $9,875 depending on the type of unit – regardless of the tenants’ income or if they actually use the money to relocate. The city claims the law’s intent is to help residents affected by soaring housing costs. But it’s government regulation, not rental homeowners, that makes new home development very expensive. The law’s not just misguided. It also fails to pass constitutional muster. It violates Lyndsey and Sharon’s Fifth Amendment’s Takings and Public Use Clauses, as well as due process.
“These sorts of tenant relocation schemes don’t work because the real root of affordable housing shortages is government regulations, not rental property owners,” PLF attorney Meriem Hubbard said.
The Ballingers filed a federal lawsuit against the city for violating their rights to due process as well as protection against government property takings. “The Ballingers’ lawsuit argues that the Oakland ordinance is not only misguided but also unconstitutional. People who want to move back into their own homes should be able to do so without paying for tenants to go elsewhere.”
Represented by PLF free of charge, the Ballingers filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Oakland to stop government bureaucrats from undermining their constitutional protections in the name of good intentions.Read more about the case at pacificlegal.org/tenantfees.
Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we have challenged the government when it violates citizens’ constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus DC, we represent clients in state and federal courts, with 11 victories out of 13 cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.