LA Rent Control Made Simple
More tenants come under Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance [LARSO] than in any other city in California. Many rent control laws are similar, and you can get the details on each law from the Legal Research page of this site. The information on this page is directed only to Los Angeles tenants. The information here is simplified, and therefore inaccurate.
What is Rent Control?
Rent control, or rent stabilization, is a collection of laws that restrict the rents a landlord can charge and limits the reasons for eviction. The two work together, so that the landlord doesn't get around a rent limit by evicting the tenant, instead, or vice versa. Los Angeles [the white areas in a Thomas Guide] is a huge area covering neighborhoods so large we think of them as cities: Westchester, San Pedro, Hollywood, Northridge, Encino, Woodland Hills, Van Nuys, Sunland, Eagle Rock, etc. There are other cites in the area that have rent control, like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. Los Angeles City Council passed rent control in 1978 and has maintained it ever since. Rent control is part of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, the ordinances which specially regulate things within the city.
The Rent Stabilization Board of Los Angeles [RSB] is part of the city Housing Department, which also sends out Code Enforcement building inspectors to cite the landlords for substandard buildings, and require the landlord to make repairs. Rent Stabilization Board makes its own Regulations to clarify the rent control law, and help in applying it.
Are you under Rent Control?
The rights you have living in Los Angeles depend on whether your rental unit is under rent control. It's a simple question with a complex answer. The answer is YES, UNLESS your unit comes within one of the exceptions [to which there are further exceptions]. The major exceptions are buildings completed after 1978, one house on a lot, government funded units, and luxury units. If you are under rent control, you have at least eviction protections, relocation assistance, and security deposit interest. Whether you are also protected from rent increases depends on when your tenancy started.
Are you protected from rent increases?
The "Costa-Hawkins" Act created statewide "vacancy de-control" in two respects: (1) If the prior tenant leaves voluntarily or is evicted, the landlord can raise the rent for the new tenant to the whatever they can get, and the new tenant is no longer under rent control. This has encouraged landlords to make up ridiculous and false reasons for eviction of rent controlled tenants, just in order to raise the rents. For those under rent restrictions, the legal maximum increase has been 3% for the past several years. (2) For rental housing built after 1995, that construction is generally exempt from rent controls, although eviction protections are allowed. Under a new revision [Ordinance 174501], if a landlord terminates a Section 8 or other rental assistance contract, he CANNOT INCREASE that tenant's portion of the rent; for example, if the tenant paid $200 of a $1000 rent under Section 8, the landlord could stop Section 8, but still only get $200, giving up the other $800 [This law is currently challenged and on appeal, so its fate is not yet determined.]
How am I protected from Evictions?
If you are under rent control, even if you don't have the rent increase limits, the Los Angeles rent control law limits evictions to 12 legitimate reasons, in order to prevent eviction abuses. Unlike cities without rent control where tenants can be evicted for nearly any reason or no reason at all, in Los Angeles, the landlord must prove the reason for the eviction, and follow special procedures for some evictions. Reasons fall into two categories: (1) where the tenant did something wrong, and (2) where the tenant is not at fault. Eviction for nonpayment of a rent increase prohibited by Ordinance 174501 [see above] may look legitimate, but it is not.
In the first category, tenants may be evicted for nonpayment of (legal) rent, breaking a term of the lease, causing a nuisance [including drugs and gangs], using the unit for an illegal purpose [eg, a machine shop in an apartment], refusal to renew the lease on similar terms, refusal to permit the landlord reasonable entry to inspect or repair, or there is a different person in possession of the unit than who rented it. In the second category, the landlord has to get and serve special papers with the city Housing Department after proving the reason is valid: the owner's family member or a new manager is moving into that unit, the house is no longer going to be a rental, the property is condemned, or HUD is selling the property. In this second category, the landlord must pay the tenant $3,300 relocation assistance [or $8,200 if the tenant has minor children, a legal disability, or is over 62 years old; new amounts effective 7/1/05] Evictions for major rehabilitation are no longer allowed. See the special section on rehabilitation, below.
The eviction notice itself has to give details on the eviction, such as what was done, the dates, times, and witnesses, so that the landlord cannot make something up in Court and catch the tenant unprepared. [State law now also requires a Pay-or-Quit notice to specify how and to whom the money is to be paid.]
The landlord cannot change the rules to prohibit pets and then evict for having a pet. The law [Ordinance 175130] changed in March, 2003 to prohibit ANY changes [beyond legal rent increases and government required additions] in a rental agreement UNLESS the tenant VOLUNTARILY agrees in writing. The landlord cannot take away parking spaces, swimming pool privileges, change the "rules," or manner of payment, for example, without the tenant's consent. This is a significant change in the law.
The landlord cannot evict for having additional occupants [ie, staying more than 30 days] if they are the tenant's children or the tenant pays another 10% per person [except the first additional child].
If the landlord has not registered the unit with the RSB, he can't evict; you are supposed to get a copy of the registration certificate, but you can call the RSB to find out by phone.
The landlord has to convince the judge of his real reason for the eviction, which is much harder than non-controlled cites, where the landlord only has to prove that he gave a 30-day notice to win.
Interest on Security Deposits
You are entitled to 1% interest per year on your security deposit, if you have stayed there at least a year.
Rent Reduction Hearing
The RSB has the authority to reduce your rent if your unit is uninhabitable or there is an overcharge. You file a complaint, and the landlord has to come to a hearing where the reduction is determined.
Under extreme circumstances, where the landlord ignores or refuses to repair the items required by the building inspector, the building can be taken over by City under "REAP" program, reducing the tenants' rent, and using the amounts paid to rehabilitate the building.
Major Rehabilitation Relocation
Effective 5/2/05, where the landlord has to perform major rehabilitation on a unit or portions of the entire building, the tenants can be temporarily relocated [NOT EVICTED], and 50% of the cost of the work can be applied to rent increases of up to 10%, as permitted by the Housing Department. The landlord must pay for all of the temporary relocation costs of the tenant, including hotel expenses, food, day care, moving costs, and phone transfers. If the work will take longer than 30 days, the temporary housing must be comparable in size, rooms, accessibility, and proximity to services and institutions [schools, hospitals, etc], such as another unit in the complex or a different apartment building entirely. If less than 30 days, it can be a hotel or motel within 2 miles, suitable for the tenants' needs, with standard amenities. The landlord has to give at least 7 days' notice to return to the apartment, afterwards.
The tenant must cooperate, or be evicted on that ground. However, the landlord cannot evict without following every procedure, including paying for all accommodations, presenting the plan, and giving the required notices.. The tenant must also continue to pay rent for the unit. If the repairs are minor, the landlord can perform the work during 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday, without relocating the tenant at all, so long as the tenant is not exposed to toxic substances, such as asbestos, lead paint, or mold. The relocation Plan will be given to the affected tenants and the Housing Department, and the tenants will have 15 days to object to any portion of it. In the alternative, any tenant can make a separate agreement for a daily payment and live with a friend or relative. For any work that takes over 30 days, the tenant has the option to cancel their rental agreement, move out, and receive their security deposit plus either the $3,300 or $8,200 relocation assistance [as it applies to them]. On the other hand, the penalties are severe against landlords who try to cheat, including paying up to 3 times the amount of any expenses incurred by the tenant if they don't pay for lodgings, food, etc, plus attorney fees and costs. The landlord can be prosecuted for misdemeanors for attempts to circumvent these laws, denied rent increases to reimburse the work costs for failure to comply with these tenant protections, and special penalties for individual technical compliance.
It is a complicated set of laws, with some exceptions and special rules, but it basically prevents the landlord from permanently evicting a tenant under the pretense of fixing the building, only to jack up rents and circumvent rent control. Instead, it provides for the temporary relocation of tenants where necessary, until the work is complete, preventing the landlord from unduly delaying any repairs until the tenants give up hope.
Last updated 8/3/14