Potential “Just Cause” Evictions Ordinance in Los Angeles

In January of this year, the Los Angeles City Council passed a motion requesting that the City Attorney’s office investigate statewide eviction protection laws that could potentially be adopted in Los Angeles. The motion cited a 2019 study conducted by Public Council and the UCLA School of Law that estimated over 500,000 eviction proceedings had been filed with LA County since 2010, and the real number of of evictions could be as high as 1,500,000, as many tenants left their units at the threat of eviction. The motion was filed in an effort to slow the amount of evictions happening in LA and protect tenants from price gouging and evictions, and keep the housing crisis in Los Angeles under control. If adopted, there’s no doubt that this ordinance could change the landscape of renting in Los Angeles.

What is a “Just Cause” Evictions Ordinance?

A “Just Cause” Evictions Ordinance would act as a protective order for those who are not covered under the existing Rent Stabilization Ordinance— generally, people renting multi-family units built before 1978. The “Just Cause” Ordinance would regulate all evictions in non-RSO units, require the payment of relocation services for all “No-Fault” evictions (evictions for which the tenant is not responsible), and require landlords to notify their tenants of their rights at the onset of their leases.

The “just causes” that may constitute an eviction include:

  1. Nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment, or frequent bounced checks
  2. Violation of the rental agreement
  3. Nuisance or substantial damage to the unit, or creating an environment that prevents the other tenants or landlord from feeling safe or comfortable in the property
  4. Illegal use of the unit
  5. Termination of the rental agreement without an extension
  6. Refusal to give the landlord access to the unit as required by law
  7. Unapproved subtenant
  8. Move-in of the landlord (tenant has the right to relocation payments)
  9. Sale of a unit which has been converted to a condo
  10. Demolition or removal of the unit from housing use (tenant has the right to relocation payments)
  11. Capital improvements or rehabilitation which might cause temporary relocation of the tenant
  12. “Substantial rehabilitation” of a building that is uninhabitable (tenant has the right to relocation payments)
  13. Ellis Act evictions
  14. Lead abatement as required by health code (tenant has the right to relocation payments)
  15. Good Samaritan Occupancy Status for the tenant expires, and the landlord serves an eviction notice within 60 days after the expiration of the status

Why are some people opposed to a “Just Cause” ordinance?

In short, it favors tenants’ rights over that of landlords.

This ordinance is a significant increase in rental regulation, especially in that it places regulation on evictions from single-family homes in addition to multi-family properties like apartment complexes. By imposing more regulation on tenants, it creates more strain and financial expense for landlords to evict problem tenants. On the other hand, it protects renters from being evicted without proper cause.

The ordinance is designed, in part, to keep LA’s housing crisis under control, and to keep the number of people going homeless each year in LA from increasing. The argument against the ordinance is that it could be potentially devastating for small-scale landlords, and make property management an impossibility for many of them, leading to less rental properties available either way.

Will it be passed?

So far, no vote has taken place to adopt or reject the motion calling for the “Just Cause” ordinance. On June 4, 2020, there was a special meeting of LA City Council’s Housing Committee to discuss this motion and numerous other items, but this motion was skipped over; no agenda amendment was posted and the motion was not mentioned, so it is likely that the motion will be brought up at a future Housing Committee meeting.

While there wasn’t a vote either way on June 4th, there were many public commentators who called in to speak in opposition of the motion being passed. Many landlords said that they were concerned about losing their properties due to the new financial responsibility that the ordinance could impose on them, and they called for a more thorough investigation into how the ordinance might negatively affect the stakeholders who have invested in rental properties.

No future meeting to discuss the motion has yet been scheduled, but it is likely that it will be voted on in the near future.

Published by madysoncarpenter

Madyson Carpenter is a government relations and legal intern at CIMA Law Group in Phoenix, AZ. She graduated with honors from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2020. Madyson is passionate about environmental policy and social justice, and plans on beginning law school in 2021. In her spare time, you can nearly always find Madyson backpacking, climbing, making art, or volunteering with various environmental advocacy groups.

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