Tenant Harassment LA Ordinance Issued – Press Telegram
An ordinance to prevent landlords from harassing tenants came into effect on Friday, August 6, after being passed by Los Angeles City Council by 13 to 0 votes.
The ordinance approved on June 23 when two council members were absent and enacted by Mayor Eric Garcetti prevents landlords from harassing tenants by cutting services, denying repairs, refusing to accept rent payments, or taking other retaliatory measures.
Tenants leaders organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment gathered outside City Hall on Friday morning to celebrate the ordinance coming into force. The alliance was organized to pressure council members to adopt the ordinance, which was blocked in committee.
“The anti-harassment ordinance had been in limbo for more than four years on the housing committee. During the pandemic, the Stay Housed Coalition and ACCE saw a slight increase in landlord harassment cases, so ACCE and other organizers decided to unite to fight for a fair tenant anti-harassment ordinance. An ACCE representative said on Friday.
The ordinance had been in the works since February 2, 2017, when then-city councilor Jose Huizar brought forward a motion for the Department of Housing and Community Investment to review the anti-harassment ordinances of other cities and report on the possibility of adopting a similar measure in Los Angeles.
After a process of several years, the draft ordinance was considered by the city council on June 9, when council members voted to strengthen various aspects, including a broad definition of harassment, and asked the prosecutor’s office city to incorporate the revisions and bring the measurement for final approval.
The ordinance defines harassment of tenants in several ways, including reducing or eliminating housing services, such as parking; failing to carry out necessary repairs and maintenance; abuse the right to access rental housing; threatening a tenant with physical damage; make a false declaration to a tenant that he is required to vacate the accommodation; refuse to accept rent payments; and inquire about a tenant’s immigration status.
Thanks to amendments from City Councilor Nithya Raman, the ordinance also includes tactics such as coercing a tenant out with offers of payment; failing to complete necessary repairs within the time required by federal, state, regional or local housing, health or safety laws; do not minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead, paint, asbestos and other harmful building materials; and interfere with the comfort, peace or quiet of a tenant.
While the definition has been broadened to include a wider range of harassment tactics, council members have also raised the bar for what is considered tenant harassment, as proposed by City Councilor John Lee. .
The definition includes “the conscious and willful conduct of a landlord with respect to a particular tenant or tenants which causes harm or injury and which serves no lawful purpose”.
The alliance thanked Council Chairman Nury Martinez on Friday for putting the ordinance to a vote and Raman for being a “fearless campaign champion.”
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 conscious and willful commission” of harassment defined – has not been incorporated.
Raman expressed concern about the approved amendment, saying some landlords are legally removing amenities, such as parking, from tenants as a harassment tactic.
David Michaelson of the city attorney’s office told Raman that it would be up to a court to decide whether the intention was legal, even if the tactic was.
Under the order, in the event of harassment, a tenant who wins in court can be awarded compensation for damages, rent refunds for reduced housing services, and reasonable compensation for housing fees. ‘lawyer.
A landlord can also be fined up to $ 5,000 if the tenant is over 65 or has a disability. For repair or maintenance issues, a tenant is required to provide written notice to the landlord of the alleged violation before initiating civil proceedings or a small claims case.
According to this amendment, it will be an offense “to attempt to obstruct the enjoyment, use, possession or peaceful occupation of any premises by the legitimate tenant or the tenant of such premises either by threat, fraud, intimidation, coercion, duress or by maintaining or tolerating a public nuisance, or by cutting off heat, light, water, fuel or free communication by anyone by mail, telephone or otherwise, or by restricting trade or traders from or to such tenant.
Council members amended the ordinance to force rental units protected by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to be rented at the statutory rent in effect at the time of the most recent tenancy termination if it turns out that the owner left the accommodation through harassment.
Raman told council members ahead of the vote that the amendment is among those she is most proud of because it “removes the incentive for homeowners to engage in this kind of behavior in the first place.”
“I really want to be clear today as we talk about this issue, who this ordinance will help,” Raman said. “The more vulnerable the tenant, the more likely they are to be affected by the harassment and to be displaced by the harassment.
She added that people of color, low-income renters, women and families with children are disproportionately affected by harassment from renters.
The alliance on Friday reiterated its request to city council to change the ordinance to ensure it is enforced, including forcing landlords to pay a tenant’s legal fees.
The ACCE argued unsuccessfully that the part of the measure that says a tenant who wins in court “may” be awarded attorney fees “is a critical loophole that can make the difference between l ‘access to lawyers for these harassed tenants’.
“We have to fill this gap, the law has to be clear,” said an ACCE representative in June.
“In the current state of the ordinance, the burden of proof is on the tenant to prove the harassment. We want to change that language so that the onus is on the landlord to prove they are not harassing tenants.