LA Approves Temporary Freeze on Rent Hikes, No-Fault Evictions

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a pair of emergency ordinances Tuesday freezing rent increases for tenants and barring “no-fault” evictions until a state law which does both takes effect Jan. 1.

Los Angeles City Hall. (Chris Marshall/CNS)

Tenants’ rights groups have flooded LA officials recently with complaints that landlords and building owners were raising rents or issuing 60-day eviction notices ahead of Assembly Bill 1482’s effective date.

The bill, signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom this month, bars evictions without cause and prevents landlords from hiking rents more than 5%, plus local inflation, annually.

Rosie Guardado of Panorama City asked councilmembers last week to approve protection for tenants like herself who received eviction notices from landlords who she suspects are looking to take advantage of the time before AB 1482 becomes law.

“It’s not easy to find housing in that short time frame, let alone affordable housing,” Guardado said.

Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price proposed rent increase and “no-fault” eviction protections to more than 130,000 units in the city through Dec. 31.

More than 60% of LA residents are renters and 58% of them are “rent-burdened,” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on rent, the motion stated.

The ordinances, approved 14-0, apply to units built before January 2005 and only allows evictions if a landlord has “just cause” to do so, such as criminal activity by renters or a failure to pay rent.

Prior to the vote, Councilmember Gil Cedillo echoed requests from tenants’ rights groups that the ordinance apply retroactively to eviction notices issued after March 15, a period covered under AB 1482.

“We should be making sure the intent is clear that not one tenant will be victimized,” Cedillo said in council chambers Tuesday.

David Michaelson with the City Attorney’s Office approved a last-minute amendment that bars evictions if a tenant’s eviction case has not been adjudicated.

Michaelson added the city could face legal challenges for extending retroactivity where AB 1482 does not.

“State officials had the chance to go down that path and they didn’t,” Michaelson said. “When an eviction runs its course, having local cities try to unravel that presents legal concerns.”

Councilmembers pressed city attorneys to ensure the ordinances, and their last-minute amendments, are defensible in court.

“I don’t want an ordinance that will be overturned tomorrow when first lawsuit is filed,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

Michaelson told Krekorian the ordinance will be “vigorously” defended if challenged in court.

“I don’t want to have anyone walk away from this chamber thinking the [amended ordinance] is legally flawed,” Michaelson said. “If we do find ourselves in court, we will aggressively fight so that the court will not strike that [amendment].”

The ordinances approved Tuesday won’t affect the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which bars landlords from increasing rent by more than 3% annually in buildings built prior to 1979.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to sign the ordinance Tuesday. The City Attorney’s Office told councilmembers the law could take effect as early as Wednesday.

Responding to Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, Michaelson also said his office is exploring ordinances that would allow LA officials to bar rent increases and evictions by declaring a shelter emergency.

City officials have used similar ordinances to prevent price-gouging during emergencies or natural disasters such as wildfires.

Fred Sutton of the California Apartment Association in LA said in a statement the group is working to ensure landlords understand and comply with both the state law and the city ordinance.

“With AB 1482 taking effect in just over two months, we wanted to make sure that the urgency ordinance mirrors the just-cause provisions in upcoming state law,” Sutton said.  “We appreciate that the city recognized the need to be consistent between the two sets of rules. Requiring owners to learn two sets of policies for a span just over two months would have caused needless confusion.”

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