Tenants Win Big: LA Council Okays Buyout Protection Law

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS

TENANTS RIGHTS-Wednesday the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Tenant Buyout Protection Ordinance. This was a culmination of months of effort by the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) to win passage of this necessary tenant protection.

The need for the law came out of the growing tactics being used by unscrupulous landlords attempting to coerce tenants living in rent controlled units to move by offering them “cash for keys.” This then allows the landlord the ability to jack up rents once the tenant vacates the unit.

In addition, landlords are using these buyouts to avoid having to go through the Ellis Act Eviction Process or filing a Tenant Habitability Plan, two programs that provide tenants some safeguards against abuse. By avoiding these processes landlords can obtain higher rents without paying correct relocation amounts, providing tenants the legal amount of time to move, providing tenants temporary relocation housing while the building is being renovated, being limited in raising rents and being prohibited from re-renting the units for 5 years, depending on what their intentions are for the property.

CES Affordable Housing Lead Organizer Joel Montano, testifying before the City Council prior to the vote stated, “Many tenants don’t know they rights, believe they have no choice and opt to take the money and leave. The longer you delay, the more tenants will be illegally forced out of their homes. We urge your vote to pass this ordinance today.”

LA City Council Member Gilbert Cedillo, who chairs the Council Housing Committee, was instrumental in guiding the proposal, developed by Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA), though the Council to its eventual adoption.

The new law will do the following:

  • Require that landlords provide tenants with a written disclosure notice of the tenant’s rights under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) with regard to eviction and relocation assistance, including contact information for the HCIDLA landlord/tenant hotline.
  • Allow tenants to rescind buyout agreements for any reason for up to 30 days after the agreements are fully executed.
  • Further provide that agreements that do not satisfy the stipulated requirements may be rescinded by the tenant at any time.
  • Require that landlords file copies of all buyout agreements with HCIDLA.
  • Provide tenants with an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer and a civil remedy for actual damages and civil penalties against landlords who fail to comply with the buyout agreement regulations.

(Larry Gross is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival and an occasional CityWatch contributor.)

-cw