Los Angeles Weaponizes and Expands Its COVID-19 Rent Control Ordinance

Lewitt Hackman
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Lewitt Hackman

On May 6, 2020 the LA City Council passed a new eviction control Ordinance to strengthen the temporary eviction prohibitions enacted March 31, 2020.  The amended Ordinance, which amends the Los Angeles Municipal Code, not only prohibits evictions based on defaults related to COVID-19, but also prohibits an owner from endeavoring to evict a tenant. Additionally, the new ordinance includes a private right of action that allows “aggrieved residential tenants” to sue for penalties up to $15,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs. Here are some of the main provisions of the new Ordinance, which goes into effect May 12, 2020:

Eviction Protections Expanded by Time and Scope: During the Local Emergency Period (March 4, 2020 to the end of the local emergency as declared by the Mayor) and for 12 months after its expiration (for residential tenants) or three months after its expiration (for commercial tenants), no owner shall endeavor to evict or evict a residential tenant for non-payment during the Local Emergency Period if the tenant is unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ordinance defines “endeavor to evict” as “conduct where the Owner lacks a good faith basis to believe that the tenant does not enjoy the benefits of this article and the Owner serves or provides in any way to the tenant: a notice to pay or quit, a notice to perform covenant or quit, a notice of termination, or any other eviction notice.”

New Notice Requirement for Residential Tenancies: Within 15 days of the effective date of the Ordinance, the Owner must (i) provide each tenant notice of the protections in the Ordinance; and (ii) provide the notice during the Local Emergency Period and for 12 months after its expiration each time the Owner serves an eviction notice. HCID is to make available the prescribed notice, which an Owner must use without any modification.

Private Right of Action for Residential Tenants: If an Owner commits a violation against a residential tenant, the “aggrieved tenant” can file a lawsuit for injunctive relief, money damages, and any other relief the Court deems appropriate, including a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation. If the aggrieved tenant is older than 65 or disabled, the Court is authorized to increase the civil penalty by up to $5,000. The prevailing tenant in a lawsuit can recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. If an owner prevails in a lawsuit, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs can only be recovered if the Court determines the tenant’s action was frivolous. Importantly, a lawsuit cannot be filed until after the tenant provides written notice to the Owner of the alleged violation, and the Owner fails to cure the alleged violation within 15 days from the receipt of the notice.

Property owners should carefully review the new Ordinance before taking any action to evict a tenant.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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