LA calls for report to track effectiveness of order to end tenant harassment

Nearly six months after an ordinance went into effect in Los Angeles aimed at preventing landlords from harassing tenants, the city council on Tuesday requested a report containing data and metrics that can be used to assess the effectiveness of the order.

The motion directed the Los Angeles Department of Housing – with the assistance of the city’s administrative officer, chief legislative analyst and city attorney – to report after the anti-harassment order of the tenants has been in effect for a year, i.e. August 6. , 2022.

The CLA was also commissioned to conduct a comparative analysis of other California cities’ protocols and programs for enforcing their anti-tenant harassment ordinances, including San Francisco and Santa Monica.

The Housing Department and City Attorney will also report on a recommended Anti-Tenant Harassment Program for the City, including the resources needed to establish permanent City staff positions to monitor and enforce the order.

The ordinance had been in the works since Feb. 2, 2017, when then-Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion asking the housing department to review other cities’ anti-harassment ordinances and report on them. the possibility of adopting a similar measure in Los Angeles.

On the day the ordinance went into effect, Councilor Nithya Raman presented the motion which was approved on Tuesday.

“I think what we’re going to be able to do with this motion is really assess what’s working and assess what’s not working and make sure the city is doing everything it can to make sure the harassment can stop in the city,” Raman said ahead of the vote on Tuesday.

Raman added that she is concerned that private sector lawyers have not taken on many cases of tenant harassment since the ordinance took effect, adding that “we really need to do this as a city “.

After a years-long process, the draft ordinance was considered by city council on June 9, 2021, when council members voted to strengthen various aspects, including an expanded definition of harassment, and directed the office of the city ​​attorney to incorporate the revisions and bring back the measure for final approval.

The ordinance defines tenant harassment in several ways, including reducing or eliminating housing services such as parking; failing to carry out necessary repairs and maintenance; abusing the right of access to rental housing; threatening a tenant with physical violence; falsely declaring to a tenant that he is required to vacate the dwelling; refusal to accept rent payments; and inquire about a tenant’s immigration status.

Thanks to Raman’s amendments, the ordinance also includes tactics such as coercing a tenant out with offers of payment; failing to make necessary repairs on time as required by federal, state, county, or local housing, health, or safety laws; not minimizing exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, asbestos and other harmful building materials; and interfere with a tenant’s comfort, peace or quiet.

While the definition has been expanded to include a wider range of harassment tactics, council members have also raised the bar for what qualifies as tenant harassment, as Councilor John Lee proposed. . The definition includes “a landlord’s conscious and deliberate course of action against a specific tenant or tenants that causes harm or harm and serves no legitimate purpose.”

Raman had attempted to change the ordinance to lower the bar for what would qualify as tenant harassment, but the amendment – which defined harassment as a landlord engaging in “the knowing and willful commission” of defined acts of harassment – has not been incorporated.

Under the order, in the event of harassment, a tenant who wins a case in court can obtain compensation for damages, rent reimbursements for reduced housing services and reasonable compensation for housing fees. attorney.

A landlord can also be fined up to $5,000 if the tenant is over 65 or disabled. For repair or maintenance issues, a tenant is required to provide written notice to the landlord of the alleged violation before initiating a civil proceeding or small claims case.

According to this amendment, it is an offense “to attempt to interfere with the peaceable enjoyment, use, possession or occupation of any premises by the tenant or lawful tenant of such premises, whether by threat, fraud , intimidation, coercion, coercion or by the maintenance or condoning of a public nuisance, or by cutting off heat, light, water, fuel or free communication by anyone by mail, telephone or otherwise, or restricting the trade or traders of or to such lessee.

Council members also amended the ordinance to require rental units protected by the rent stabilization ordinance to be rented at the legal rent in effect at the time of the last termination of the lease if the landlord is found to left the accommodation through harassment.

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