LA looks to give renters the right to legal counsel and pet ownership

City Council to consider draft legislation dealing with aftermath of the COVID crisis

LA City Council Seeks to Expand Tenants Rights
Councilmembers Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martínez (Nithya Raman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, City of Los Angeles, Getty)

Los Angeles City Council could enact safeguards for city renters dealing with legal representation and pets — both after-effects of the waning COVID-19 crisis.

In a move to bolster tenant protections, the City Council has asked the city attorney to draft two ordinances addressing eviction concerns and pet ownership, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

The first proposal aims to provide legal representation to qualifying tenants facing eviction or loss of housing subsidies, particularly those earning no more than 80 percent of area median income.

The second proposal seeks to allow tenants to keep pets acquired during the pandemic.

To be formally adopted, the ordinances must pass the City Council, and they are expected to be reviewed next year. The suggested legislation comes during a reported increase in evictions after the expiration of COVID-era renter protections.

The first ordinance, known as the right-to-counsel proposal, builds on efforts initiated by Councilwoman Nithya Raman. It aims to establish a permanent city eviction defense program, ensuring legal services for low-income tenants unable to afford representation during eviction proceedings. 

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The city’s Housing Department recommended a phased five-year implementation, prioritizing vulnerable residents in specific zip codes. The estimated cost of the program is $67.8 million a year, with funding to come from Measure ULA, a real estate transfer tax approved by voters in November last year.

Councilman Hugo Soto-Martínez advocated for the right-to-counsel program, highlighting the imbalance in legal representation between landlords and tenants. Drawing inspiration from New York City and San Francisco, he emphasized the positive impact of such programs on preventing evictions.

In addition to the right-to-counsel proposal, the City Council voted unanimously to draft a separate ordinance allowing tenants to keep pets brought home during the pandemic. The aim is to protect pet owners in rental units that typically do not allow pets, particularly those who adopted or fostered animals during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The proposed pet ordinance, if enacted, would require tenants to inform housing providers about pets obtained during the pandemic.

Supporters argue that these animals provide emotional support and are considered integral members of the family. The ordinance also addresses concerns about potential overcrowding in animal shelters by allowing existing pets to remain in rental units.

— Dana Bartholomew

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