The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to authorize the city attorney to craft a pair of emergency ordinances aimed at halting "no-fault" evictions of people living in rental units built before 2006 and to bar all rent increases until Jan. 1, when a new state law goes into effect that provides similar protections.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed AB 1482, the Tenant Protections Act of 2019, which is designed to prevent rent gouging and arbitrary evictions.
A no-fault eviction is defined as when a tenant is evicted for reasons that are no fault of their own. The legislation establishes protection for renters in non-rent stabilized housing.
Councilman Mitch O'Farrell's office said the city's Housing and Community Investment Department is reporting a spike in the number of calls and inquiries about sudden eviction notices, and said property owners have been advised to quickly issue "no-fault'' eviction notices to tenants who pay low rents in advance of the act's protections.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who crafted the proposal to stop all rent increases, said people are struggling to make payments.
"... It is cheaper to keep you in your home than build affordable housing these days,'' Martinez said. "If we cannot find a way or the means to keep a single mom, who's holding down two jobs to pay her rent, if we cannot find a way to keep her in her home, then we have failed.''
Martinez also said the council should expand programs that help keep people from being evicted.
"We are possibly witnessing the unintended consequences of a law that was designed to assist our low-income earners and families who struggle on the margins,'' O'Farrell said. "We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and as lawmakers we must do everything in our power to protect those renters who may face rent gouging from landlords who are trying to take advantage of a window of opportunity.''
City Councilman Paul Koretz said the ordinances should have been enacted today, but representatives from the City Attorney's Office said that could be perilous if the proposed laws aren't scrutinized enough.
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"If we don't put our foot down, it's going to be hundreds maybe thousands of buildings'' of people evicted, Koretz said. "Everything that we've done could be wiped out and we could end up with literally thousands of people on the streets.''
According to the motion, an estimated 30,000 evictions take place in Los Angeles each year, and the threat of no-fault evictions are escalating.
"We did not fully anticipate that landlords would take measures to fight against AB 1482 in the worst possible ways, by trying to evict tenants who have done nothing wrong,'' Councilman Curren Price said. "Just this week, my office heard from a number of tenants whose rent hiked more than 150% within the last year alone.''
Price said those evicted include people who live in subsidized housing and large families.
"We simply can't allow massive rent increases and unjust evictions to happen anymore,'' he said.
Strefan Fauble of the City Attorney's Office said it's unclear whether the council could make the ordinances retroactively to cover the small time frame from when the governor signed the bill on Oct. 8.
Speakers from the audience said they would like to discuss the issues further with the City Council as its actions could run into legal challenges involving the Ellis Act, which allows property owners to get out of the rental industry and give tenants notice.
The motion states that 60% of the city's residents are renters and a majority of them are rent-burdened, paying over 30% of their income for housing.
About 76% of multi-family units in the city are covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which protects renters against high rent increases and arbitrary evictions, but there are currently no renter protections for approximately 138,000 units in the city that will be covered by the new law, according to Price.
The state law is to be in effect until 2030, unless voters extend it.