L.A. County Moves Forward with Rent Regulations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Board of Supervisors tentatively voted today in favor of two permanent rent stabilization ordinances expected to take effect April 1 in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

The vote on the ordinances, which cover both rental properties and land leases in mobile home parks, was 4-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting.

Under the rental ordinance, rent increases for non-luxury units will be limited to the annual change in the Consumer Price Index, with a maximum of 8%. Properties exempt from the caps on rent include units built after 1995, condominiums, single-family homes and public housing. The rental ordinance also prohibits evictions without just cause.

The mobile home ordinance limits increases on space rentals to 75% of the CPI with an 8% maximum.

Jessa Orluk, a housing program manager at the Liberty Hill Foundation, said the ordinance provides ``comprehensive tenant protection ... for thousands of tenants across L.A.''

Landlords countered that the regulations would stifle housing supply.

``Rent control is not the solution. It will not address affordability. It will not result in additional housing units," said Danielle Leidner- Peretz of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.

The supervisors offered no comment of their own until after the vote, when the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs issued a statement including quotes from the board.

``Contrary to popular beliefs, economic issues are the number one reason people become homeless. Many people are faced with astronomical rent increases and can't afford lawyers to fight them,'' Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. ``The county's actions will help residents maintain affordable homes in stable communities, and stem the tide of people into homelessness.''

Some opponents seemed resigned to regulations limiting rent increases and focused instead on specific aspects of the ordinance.

Laura Olhasso of the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors, who said she represents 7,000 Realtors in the Fifth District, called the ordinance ``fairly appalling.'' Olhasso argued that the ordinance's limit on passing through only 50% of the cost of property improvements to tenants would mean ``apartment owners will simply not have enough cash'' to keep rental units in good condition.

Both sides focused in on a requirement for landlords to provide relocation assistance for tenants who are temporarily displaced or evicted for ``no-fault'' reasons -- which include ending a lease because a landlord's family member is moving in or taking the property off the rental market.

That financial assistance -- to be set by the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs -- is expected to be higher for seniors, low-income and disabled tenants. Recommendations in board documents set payments to a senior permanently displaced from a one-bedroom apartment at $10,675 and to a low- income renter permanently displaced from a one-bedroom apartment at $12,688.

Tenant advocates said they were already seeing a surge of eviction notices and urged the board to add a similar requirement to the temporary rent ordinance, which was extended through March 31. Otherwise, they warned, landlords would have from now until April 1 to push tenants out.

``Eliminate the loophole, protect tenants,'' urged Kaitlyn Quackenbush of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.

Landlords argued that such assistance would be prohibitively expensive, especially when paired with a requirement to hire a ``relocation specialist'' approved by the county.

One other ask from landlords was that they be allowed to pass through the cost of any new voter-approved taxes or bond issues to tenants.

In the statement issued after the vote, Supervisor Janice Hahn said she believed the ordinance allows landlords to make a reasonable amount of money renting their properties.

``We have protections in place now that will protect renters and mobile home residents alike from unexpected rent hikes while still guaranteeing landlords a reasonable return on their investments,'' Hahn said.

A series of public meetings was held from May to September, before the ordinance was drafted. Both permanent ordinances -- for rental units and mobile home parks -- will come back to the board for another vote before they are adopted. Board documents anticipate that vote next Tuesday.

A spokesman for Barger said he believed there should be a chance for amendments to be made.

``Property owners and landlords should have an opportunity to provide additional input and have a voice in the process as it continues toward adoption and implementation,'' Tony Bell told City News Service.

Tenants or landlords seeking more information can find it by calling 833-223-RENT (7368), emailing rentdcba.lacounty.gov or at http://rent.lacounty.gov.

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