Relocation money, just-cause evictions: LA’s new rent laws

Under rules, landlords are required to pay moving assistance in some eviction cases,

LA Mayor Karen Bass, Evictions
LA Mayor Karen Bass (Getty)

The Los Angeles City Council passed a new set of renter protections last week, requiring landlords to pay moving assistance fees for evicted persons in some cases, and outlining specific situations under which landlords can actually file for eviction.

The new ordinances mark the first time the city has introduced “just cause” evictions for all types of multifamily rental housing. Previously, the just cause protection — which requires landlords to have a reason for pursuing eviction — was limited to about 640,000 units, or 76 percent of the city’s multifamily stock, according to the ordinance. The just cause evictions will now apply to single-family homes, as well as other dwellings not previously covered.

“The city of Los Angeles is experiencing a rental housing shortage and a humanitarian crisis of homelessness at unprecedented levels,” the city wrote in its ordinance.

Keep LA Housed, a tenants advocacy group, called the legislation a “victory” on Twitter.

Under the new rules, landlords can only evict tenants for one of 14 reasons. The most common circumstances are if the tenant has defaulted on paying rent, or is a “nuisance” or causing damage to the property.

Landlords can also evict tenants if they, or a spouse or certain family members, intend to take back the property as a primary place of residence, or seek to demolish or “substantially remodel” the property. Other just causes include converting the property into affordable housing or a non-residential use.

The new ordinance does not apply to housing owned by a school — including a fraternity or sorority house — or accommodations in a hospital or residential care facility.

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In some cases of eviction — including in cases of planned conversions — landlords will be required to pay the tenants moving expenses. That amounts to $9,200 for tenants who have resided at the property for three years and $12,050 for tenants who have been there for longer.

Tenants who are disabled or over the age of 62 will qualify for up to $22,950 in relocation assistance in some circumstances, if they have lived at the property for more than three years.

The new assistance measures are a blow to landlords in the city of L.A., most of whom are restricted from raising rents under both city and state law. The city restricts most apartment landlords from increasing rents by more than 8 percent every 12 months. However, in 2019, the state of California passed legislation capping annual rent increases at no more than 5 percent plus a local inflation rate or 10 percent — whichever is lower.

At a lengthy council meeting on Jan. 20, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said the city was trying to quickly pass the new laws, given that the city’s eviction moratorium enacted at the start of the pandemic is set to expire at the end of this month.

In a separate ordinance, the L.A. City Council sunset protections for renters who could not pay rent as a result of factors caused by the pandemic.

“The biggest expansion of tenant protections in L.A., since the Rent Stabilization Ordinance was passed,” Councilmember Nithya Raman said on Twitter, referring to the 1979 city legislation that enacted rent control. “PHEW.”