LA invalidates evictions that landlords sent amid passage of new rent control law

The measure is meant to stop landlords from evicting tenants before the new state protections take effect Jan. 1

Oct.October 22, 2019 01:21 PM
Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price
Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price

Over the last several weeks, tenants at dozens of apartments across Los Angeles have received eviction notices from landlords trying to get ahead of the state’s rent control law set to kick in Jan. 1.

The threat of eviction raised concern among residents, and prompted action from the City Council.

On Tuesday, the Council unanimously halted all evictions at rental buildings covered under the new rent law.

The measure, which lasts through Dec. 31, also invalidates any 60-day eviction notices already issued. The emergency action only covers tenants who haven’t vacated their units. Many tenants, however, have complained that landlords have jacked up rents over the last several months, ever since the State Legislature introduced rent control regulations. The Council measure does not address that.

Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price introduced the eviction notice moratorium. Pending Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signature, it could take effect this week.

The eviction notices followed the legislature’s passage of the rent control bill in September, and as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill — AB 1482 — into law earlier this month.

The rent control law implements so-called “just cause” eviction protections on buildings 15 years or older. Once the law takes effect Jan. 1, stricter regulations will be in place for landlords who want to evict a tenant. Under the new rules, a landlord must either pay to relocate the tenant or waive the last month’s rent. To bypass those steps, the landlord must prove that the tenant violated the lease or failed to pay rent.

State law requires landlords provide a 60-day notice of eviction if a tenant has lived in a unit for longer than a year. That requirement meant that landlords had until Nov. 1 to evict tenants without having to comply with AB 1482’s “just cause” provisions.

The rent control law will roll back rents on current tenants to the amount charged on March 15, when the state bill was introduced. That provision was designed to prevent landlords from raising rents to lock in higher rates. But it did not address rent hikes through the end of the year.

Some residents who spoke at Tuesday’s Council meeting claimed they have seen rent increases as high as 120 percent this year.

If a tenant cannot pay that rent, the landlord can execute an “at fault” eviction. Several Council members said they wanted to remedy that, but those evictions are legal and cannot be regulated by the emergency ordinance, city officials said.

“While it may be objectionable, offensive, and morally unethical, that will be grounds for evictions,” said Chief Assistant City Attorney David Michaelson said of the increases. “It can’t be weaved into the ordinance.”

Michaelson said the city’s ability to stop those hikes is “very limited” and added that new tenants have likely already moved into many of those units that were vacated following the hikes.

Council member Nury Martinez introduced a separate ordinance last week to address those evictions. It could be voted on later this week or early next week.

The intention, she said, was to create a “rent relief program” through the end of the year. That would, she said, “insure that people are getting that extra $200-$500 per month to stay in their place.”

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