LA City Council committee sends package of renter protections to full council

Angelenos are one step closer to getting additional tenant protections, as a package of proposals to further protect renters passed out of the Los Angeles City Council’s Housing and Homeless Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

The proposed protections next head to the full city council for a vote on Friday.

Some councilmembers indicated they still have questions or are unclear about the ramifications of some of the proposals but decided to move them out of the committee in the interest of trying to get new tenant protections passed by the end of this month, when a policy expires that barred landlords from evicting tenants affected by COVID-19-related hardships.

The proposals that passed out of the housing committee would expand universal “just-cause” protections, provide relocation assistance to tenants who would otherwise face steep rent hikes, and prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who owe less than a certain amount in rent.

The universal just-cause protection is intended to prevent landlords from arbitrarily evicting tenants in L.A. It would extend this protection to more renters.

Tenants in rent-stabilized units or that are covered under a separate state law already have just-cause protection. What the council is now considering would expand just-cause protections to tenants in about 396,000 other rental units in the city.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield requested an amendment to the proposal so that the just-cause protection would kick in only after the end of a tenant’s first lease, or after 12 months, whichever came first, so that landlords seeking to only rent out their units for short terms would not wind up with their hands tied.

“Expanding just cause is really important, especially as the COVID protections are waning,” Blumenfield said. “I do want to make sure, of course, though, that as we do this, we don’t disincentive housing.”

The amendment passed 3-2. Councilmember Nithya Raman cast one of the no votes, saying she was uncomfortable voting for something without having time to review the potential ramifications it might have for  tenants. At the same time, she agreed to call a vote on it and acknowledged that councilmembers are facing a tight deadline to pass new tenant protections before the eviction moratorium sunsets on February 1.

“Moving forward, I hope that we’re not making decisions in this way, without time to have the Housing Department report back on what the implications are going to be on tenants,” said Raman, who chairs the committee.

In addition to a proposal to expand just-cause protections, the committee also advanced a proposal to require landlords to pay relocation assistance to renters who decide not to renew their lease because their rent is going up more than 10%, or by the Consumer Price Index plus 5%.

The intent of that proposal is to prevent rent gouging by landlords. Under this scenario, landlords would have to 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. This would protect an additional 84,000 rental units in L.A. that were built after 2008.

The third proposed protection would 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.

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Because the city’s COVID-19 local state of emergency is set to expire on Jan. 31, thus triggering L.A.’s eviction moratorium to also sunset, tenant rights advocates have been pressing the council to adopt permanent tenant protections by the end of the month.

Council President Paul Krekorian announced earlier this week plans to place them on Friday’s agenda.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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