Tenants’ rights advocates educate residents about temporary rent control
Prop 10 may have failed last November, but rent control isn’t completely off the table.
In fact, there’s currently temporary limits on rent increases in all unincorporated regions of Los Angeles County, which includes regions in South L.A. like View Park-Windsor Hills, Florence-Firestone, Willowbrook, Athens, and Westmont. These protections will be in place until June.
The measure, which is similar to rent control policies in other L.A. County cities like Santa Monica and West Hollywood, caps rent increases at 3 percent and places a restriction on evictions without cause.
These two sections of the measure are critical, said Joe Donlin, associate director at tenant rights nonprofit Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, or SAJE.
The rent increase limit and just cause eviction protection work in tandem, he said. Rent control alone would still allow landlords to displace tenants without reason, and only having just cause protections would allow landlords displace tenants simply by raising rent too high.
Working within the confines of the Costa-Hawkins Act, the temporary rent stabilization ordinance applies to structures built before February 1995 (when the Costa-Hawkins Act was established). The measure went into effect this past December, and applies retroactively from Sept. 11, 2018, meaning if a landlord in one of the buildings covered by the measure raises rents by more than 3 percent since then, they’re in violation.
SAJE is focused on spreading the word to tenants about their rights regarding this new ordinance.
They canvass unincorporated neighborhoods and hold tenants’ rights workshops to help residents understand the law and direct them to legal support should they need it. SAJE also partnered with theworksLA, a design technology company focusing on map creation, to create an interactive rent control finder that can help tenants understand their rights.
Not all parties support the new ordinance, least of all those most negatively affected: landlords.
Janet Gagnon, a director at the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, argues the ordinance damages “mom and pop” landlords, who usually manage a single building with less than 10 units.
Gagnon said landlords need to share the expenses of building repairs and other unexpected problems with tenants or else the building itself may become compromised, and tenants could be displaced anyway.
“Some of the most affordable rental housing are these older buildings, small buildings owned by mom and pop landlords,” Gagnon said. “If you’re now preventing them from addressing major repair situations, you’re gonna drive them out of business.”
The LA Housing Coalition, of which the Apartment Association is a founding member, supports housing vouchers as opposed to rent control measures like the temporary ordinance, Gagnon said. The government provides the vouchers to assist with rent payment and doesn’t force landlords to shoulder the burden. The Housing Coalition does not have a specific housing voucher program it advocated for, but supports the concept more generally.
Donlin, with SAJE, argues that housing vouchers may be necessary, but they’re not a replacement for other rent control measures.
“It’s a bit of a distraction to say we don’t need rent control, we need something else,” Donlin said. “We need multiple strategies, and rent control and just cause evictions are critical foundations to stop displacement. “
Regardless, the temporary rent stabilization ordinance is currently in place until June.
SAJE is trying to work with the LA County Board of Supervisors to develop a permanent ordinance by the end of the year, which would require an extension of the temporary ordinance before it expires.