LA City Council poised to enact tenant protection package

City Council to vote on tenant protections for when the COVID-19 eviction moratorium ends

Los Angeles Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Nithya Raman
Los Angeles Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Nithya Raman (Getty)

Los Angeles is poised to enact permanent tenant protections after a policy expires that prevents landlords from evicting tenants who claimed COVID-19-related hardships.

A package of proposals to further protect renters passed out of the Housing & Homelessness Committee and is set for a City Council vote on Friday, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

Some council members said they were unclear about the ramifications of the proposals, but wanted new tenant protections before the city’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium ends this month.

The proposals would expand universal “just-cause” protections, provide relocation assistance to tenants who would otherwise face steep rent hikes and prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who owe less than a certain amount in rent.

The just-cause protection aims to prevent Los Angeles landlords from arbitrarily evicting tenants, and would extend the protection to more renters.

Tenants in rent-stabilized units or that are covered under a separate state law already have just-cause protection. What the council is now considering would expand just-cause protections to tenants in about 396,000 other rental units in the city.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield requested an amendment to the proposal so that the just-cause protection would kick in only after the end of a tenant’s first lease, or after 12 months, whichever came first, so that landlords seeking to only rent out their units for short terms would not wind up with their hands tied.

“Expanding just cause is really important, especially as the COVID protections are waning,” Blumenfield said. “I do want to make sure, of course, though, that as we do this, we don’t disincentive housing.”

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The amendment passed 3-2, with Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who chairs the committee, casting one of the no votes. She said she was uncomfortable voting for something without having time to review the potential ramifications for tenants.

In addition to expanding just-cause protections, the committee advanced a proposal to require landlords to pay relocation assistance to renters who decide not to renew their lease because their rent is going up more than 10 percent, or by the Consumer Price Index plus 5 percent.

The intent of that proposal is to prevent rent gouging by landlords. Under this scenario, landlords would have to pay the tenant three times the fair market rent for relocation assistance, plus $1,411 in moving costs.

According to the city’s housing department, fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,747 and $2,222 for a two-bedroom unit. This would protect an additional 84,000 apartments built after 2008.

The third proposed protection would allow tenants behind on rent to stay in their apartments for a month, unless they owe more than one month’s worth of fair market rent.

Tenant rights advocates have been pressing the council to adopt permanent tenant protections by the end of the month. The city’s COVID-19 local state of emergency is set to expire on Jan. 31, triggering an end to L.A.’s eviction moratorium.

— Dana Bartholomew

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