LA measure would make it tougher for landlords to force out tenants for renovations

City Council will consider ordinance that would close “loophole” in the state rent law

Feb.February 20, 2020 09:00 AM
 LA city council members want to close “loophole” in rent control law
LA city council members want to close “loophole” in rent control law

The Los Angeles City Council will consider a measure requiring landlords who want to make substantial property renovations to submit plans and obtain building permits before they can force tenants to vacate.

While the state’s new rent law imposed tighter restrictions on so-called “just cause” evictions, some landlords are finding a way around that, said City Councilmember Curren Price Jr., who called for the new measure.

Exceptions to the new rent protections include if a “property owner planned to do substantial renovations,” Price wrote in his motion to the Council. “Under the law, this meant that work must be significant enough to require government permits, but did not require landlords to pull those permits or describe the work in order to issue notices to vacate.”

Since the rent law — called the Tenant Protection Act — took effect Jan. 1, Price said city renters have “received notices to vacate, stating that it was due to ‘substantial renovations.’ It is clear that landlords are using this loophole to get around the protections that were intended for renters under” the law, he said.

Price noted that the Long Beach City Council recently voted unanimously to require landlords to obtain permits before issuing notices to vacate, retroactive to Jan. 1.
At Price’s request, the Council adopted a motion last week directing the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance requiring landlords receive permits first before issuing an order to vacate.

Landlords asking residents to vacate are required to pay relocation assistance to tenants unless they meet the “just cause” criteria, including a breach of a lease or failure to pay rent.

One housing advocate is skeptical the measure would work, even if it passes.

“My experience is that if a landlord wants to get rid of somebody, they are going to get rid of them,” said Casey Maddren, of United Neighborhoods Los Angeles, a housing policy group.

Westside apartment developer Neil Shekhter said most of his buildings are newly constructed and don’t require renovations, but if they did he would comply with the city ordinance.
“It’s not a big deal,” Shekhter said. “I don’t see a problem with pulling the permits first.”

Last year, California became the third state in the U.S. to pass rent control legislation when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill in October. But around that same time, tenants at dozens of apartments across L.A. reported having received eviction notices from landlords who were trying to get ahead of the law. The threat of eviction raised concern among residents, and prompted the Council to halt all evictions at rental buildings covered under the new law and invalidate any 60-day eviction notices already given. Price and Council Member Mitch O’Farrell introduced that eviction notice moratorium.

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