LA passes “just cause” eviction protection

Other provisions of tenant package will get vote later this week

Los Angeles Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Mayor Karen Bass (Getty, Nithya Rama/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons)
Los Angeles Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Mayor Karen Bass (Getty, Nithya Rama/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons)

Los Angeles has passed a tenant protection package, including “just cause” eviction protections and a timeline for repaying back rent.

The City Council also passed two provisions that required ordinances to be drafted and approved this week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A proposal that sets up a minimum threshold for eviction for tenants who fall behind on rent was provisionally approved. A separate measure to require landlords to pay relocation fees in some instances involving large rent increases was tabled until next week.

Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who chairs the council’s housing committee and championed the tenant protection package, said she was confident the eviction threshold ordinance would pass a second reading. She was also optimistic the relocation assistance provision would be approved next week.

“I’m grateful that my colleagues saw this as a moment for bold action,” Raman said.

The eviction threshold proposal was approved on a 9-2 vote, with Councilmembers Traci Park and John Lee voting no. Under the proposal, a tenant would have to owe an amount exceeding one month’s fair market rent before they could be evicted.

Because the vote wasn’t unanimous, that ordinance will have to be heard again for a second vote.

The ordinance was amended to include a severability clause, which states that if one provision of the law is struck down in court, the rest can stand. It was also amended to instruct the city’s housing department to report back on how the city’s new renter protections might affect housing production.

A separate provision that would require landlords to pay relocation fees if rent is increased by more than 10 percent, or 5 percent plus inflation, was not voted on because an amendment approved during the meeting will require more time to draft. It is expected to come back before the council Tuesday.

The amendment will clarify the displacement provision to ensure it is triggered only by changes to a unit’s contracted monthly rent, rather than any promotional rents or discounts.

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This proposal would apply to only a relatively narrow sliver of the city’s rental stock, since the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and statewide rent cap provisions already prohibit such rent increases for most units. About 84,000 units built since 2008 would be covered under the proposed rule.

Two other prongs of the package were signed into law by Mayor Karen Bass and went into effect Friday.

The “just cause” eviction protection bars landlords from evicting tenants in any rental property, including single-family homes, unless there is unpaid rent, documented lease violations, owner move-ins or other specific reasons.

Some renters, including those in rent-stabilized units, already had those protections, but making them universal dramatically expanded the number of tenants covered.

Another provision that went into effect blocks evictions until February 2024 for tenants who have unauthorized pets or who added residents who aren’t listed on leases. It also created a new timeline for paying back rent owed from the COVID-19 emergency period.

The council had been under massive pressure to approve substantial new tenant protections by the end of the month, when the city’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium was set to expire.

The county also had its own rules in place set to expire at the end of the month. Those rules bar landlords from evicting low-income tenants who say they were financially harmed by COVID-19 and can’t pay rent.

That deadline pressure was lessened slightly, when county leaders voted to extend their COVID-19 eviction rules through the end of March.

— Dana Bartholomew

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