Bay Area Proposal to Allow Landlords to Evict Tenants Solely on Arrests

Under a proposed program currently debated in San Jose (Crime Free Multi Housing Program), Police Departments would share crime arrest data with Landlords who would than be able to evict tenants based solely on arrests.  Proponents of the program suggest that landlords should not have to wait for a conviction prior to eviction as these are often delayed and the goal is to make the neighborhood safe as soon as possible.  Under the proposal, an entire family could be evicted from their residence if one of the family members were arrested for a drug crime (CA Health and Safety Code 11357-11362)  or prostitution (CA Penal Code 647(b)) or charges of domestic violence (CA Penal Code 273.5)

One can imagine that bay area landlords are delighted at any excuse to evict long term tenants from their property.   Given the booming rental market, landlords already have an incentive to evict tenants with below market rents.  This proposal would allow large scale evictions based on allegations of a crime.   The pitfalls of this proposal are many:

This proposal would allow a landlord to evict victims of crime as residents and those arrested for crime often reside in the same home.  For example, if a man were arrested for domestic violence against his spouse, this proposal would allow the landlord to evict the entire family including the victim of the crime.

The proposal allows for discriminatory action and creates an incentive for false allegations of crime meant to result in arrests and proper evictions of otherwise compliant tenants.

Most importantly, an arrest does not amount to a finding of guilt.  Indeed, many arrests do not result in conviction or even a charging by the District Attorney’s office.  Our system of laws depends on reverence to the principle of innocent until proven guilty and this proposal leads to severe consequences (eviction) based on an allegation alone.

We need to decide what sort of society we want to live in and at what costs.  We cannot always justify sacrificing civil liberties at the expense of safety.