Los Angeles has greatly expanded protections for renters, heading off a potential wave of evictions.
The L.A. City Council voted to enact permanent tenant protections 11 days before a policy expires that prevents landlords from evicting tenants who claimed COVID-19-related hardships, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The council also expanded universal “just-cause” eviction protections to hundreds of thousands of apartments and single-family homes, preventing Los Angeles landlords from arbitrarily evicting tenants. The new policy will likely go into effect before the Jan. 31 deadline for the end of the eviction moratorium.
The new legislation is widely viewed as a victory for tenant rights advocates and underscores the political might of the council’s progressive bloc.
The COVID-19 emergency rules were enacted amid unprecedented disruption at the start of the pandemic. But anti-eviction protections in Los Angeles remained in place even as other measures expired, with elected officials wary of increasing homelessness and overcrowding.
Opponents argued the soon-to-expire emergency rules had unduly burdened small landlords and that the new regulations could jeopardize their businesses.
“The city can no longer ignore the needs of landlords or further burden them with the task of solving the city’s housing crisis,” said Abby King, legislative affairs manager for the Valley Industry & Commerce Association.
Supporters made impassioned pleas to pass a muscular policy before the emergency order ends.
The new policy will set a minimum threshold for eviction for tenants who fall behind on rent, and require landlords to pay relocation fees when a large rent increase would cause displacement.
Landlords will no longer be allowed to evict tenants in any rental property, including single-family homes, unless there was unpaid rent, documented lease violations, owner move-ins or other specific reasons. The provision will start after six months or when a lease expires, whichever comes first.
Some renters, including those in rent-stabilized units, already have “just cause” eviction protections – and making them universal expands the protections to 400,000 more units, according to the city’s Housing Department.
The new policy will block evictions until February 2024 for tenants who have unauthorized pets, or who added residents who aren’t listed on leases.
It also creates a new timeline for paying rent owed from the emergency period. Tenants would have until Aug. 1 to pay back-rent accumulated between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, and until Feb. 1, 2024, to pay back-rent accumulated between Oct. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2023.
Mayor Karen Bass plans to sign the tenant protections ordinance.
“I want to congratulate our City Council — especially the Chair of the Housing and Homelessness Committee Councilmember Nithya Raman — on passing these important protections, which are crucial to combatting a potential spike in homelessness in our city,” Bass said in a statement.
— Dana Bartholomew