Landlords Challenge LA’s Newest Renter Protections

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Multifamily landlords in Los Angeles are fighting back against a recently approved set of eviction and rent protections for tenants throughout the city.

The Apartment Association of Greater L.A. (AAGLA) filed a lawsuit against the city to overturn and stop enforcement of the new ordinances that make it more difficult to remove tenants as well as penalize landlords for raising rent. 

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One ordinance in question stipulates that at least one month’s rent be past due before initiating eviction proceedings. The other forces landlords to pay relocation fees if rent is raised by at least 10 percent or by 5 percentage points over the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, and results in a tenant’s displacement. That includes paying three times the fair market rent of the unit plus $1,411 in moving costs.

City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto’s office said it is reviewing the lawsuit and declined to comment further.

Cheryl Turner, president of the AAGLA board of directors, said the new ordinances are “clearly illegal” under the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a 28-year-old law that exempts certain properties from rent-control rules. 

“Rental units such as newer construction, single-family homes, and condominiums are exempted from price controls such as rent-stabilization ordinances, yet [the city’s new ordinance] potentially imposes severe financial penalties on any owner that increases rent above specified limits on a rental unit that is exempt from rent control, should the renter then decide to relocate,” Turner said in a statement.

Turner also argued that the ordinance that requires a past-due rent threshold for evictions “flies in the face of state law which allows owners to serve three-day notices and initiate legal proceedings.”

“Now owners may have to wait months or even years, at which point the past-due rent will likely never be collectible and renters may now stay housed in violation of their lease agreement without recourse,” Turner said. “The city’s ordinance has clearly created a scenario where renters, not the property owners, can effectively establish the amount of rent they wish to pay.” 

Daniel Yukelson, AAGLA’s executive director, said unscrupulous renters can merely “string out legally owed rent payments for months or even years” by “short-paying” rent in increments of $50, $100 or more per month, and rental property owners will be left with little to no recourse.

“To make matters worse, once any portion of unpaid rent is past due more than 12 months, there are very few remedies under state law to collect the aged, accumulated rental debt,” Yukelson said.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.