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LA City Council backs relocation help for tenants if rent rises 10 percent

LA City Council backs relocation help for tenants if rent rises 10 percent


The Los Angeles City Council gave preliminary approval on Tuesday, Jan. 31, to an ordinance requiring landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants who move out following rent increases of more than 10%.

The ordinance — which will return to the city council next week for a final vote — is the last part of a package of tenant protections the council is seeking to implement, after it voted to end the local state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of January.

The ordinance contains an urgency clause, but will not move forward immediately because two city council members — John Lee and Traci Park — dissented in the 11-2 vote.

Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors extended by two months its tenant protections against eviction for those impacted by COVID-19, which also covers city residents.

Under the city ordinance, if a landlord increases rent by more than 10% or the Consumer Price Index plus 5%, the landlord must 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. The new ordinance would provide relocation assistance for tenants of units that are not already covered by the city’s existing rent-stabilization ordinance or state law — meaning it would cover an additional 84,000 rental units in Los Angeles that were built after 2008.

The city council already voted for ordinances that require universal “just cause” for evictions and that 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. The latter ordinance is set to come before the city council on Friday for a second reading before it can be adopted.

Last week, two groups representing landlords, the California Apartment Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, sent letters to the council threatening litigation if the council adopted the ordinances. Attorneys for both organizations claimed the relocation assistance requirement would violate the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which allows landlords to raise rent on units to market rate once a tenant moves out.

“The harmful draft ordinances are being fast-tracked in the complete absence of meaningful stakeholder engagement and thoughtful evaluation of the negative impacts these ordinances will have on the city,” said Max Sherman, associate director of government affairs for AAGLA.

Douglas Dennington, an attorney representing AAGLA, wrote in a letter that the city council had not demonstrated a need for an urgency clause because “‘homelessness is nothing new in the city of Los Angeles,” claiming that the city was ignoring the normal process for adopting an ordinance.

“As such, if one or both ordinances are adopted, they are obviously susceptible to immediate enjoinder,” Dennington wrote.

In response, 11 legal groups representing tenants filed their own letter to the city council, insisting that the proposed ordinances were legally sound.

“Costa-Hawkins does not restrict a city’s ability to regulate and monitor evictions, including requiring relocation assistance for tenants displaced by large rent increases,” the letter states.

Jonathan Jager, staff attorney at Legal Aid Foundation — one of the 11 groups — called legal threats a “distraction” and told the city council last week that the ordinances were on “solid legal footing.”

“Don’t let spurious threats of litigation motivated by self-interest rather than public policy distract you from voting yes,” Jager said.