Tenant Advocates to Demand Action on Proposal to Deter Landlord Harassment

Latino Organizations Oppose California Proposition 54

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The renter-advocate organizations Union de Vecinos and the Los Angeles Tenants Union plan to protest today to demand city officials take action on a proposal that would prohibit landlords from harassing tenants.

The protests are scheduled to take place at City Councilman Jose Huizar's office in Boyle Heights and the offices of the city's Housing and Community Investment Department.

The anti-harassment proposal was brought forth by Huizar in early 2017 and the City Council voted soon after in favor of researching ways to enact such a law, but HCIDLA officials said they wanted more clarity on how to establish the laws, according to a document filed in late 2018.

The City Council's Housing Committee forwarded the proposal to the Budget and Finance Committee in May for consideration, but that's the latest action that's been taken. It needs the full City Council's approval in order to become municipal law.

``The cost of housing in Los Angeles can be exorbitant,'' Huizar told City News Service. ``The fact is that rent control is necessary for many individuals and families. Unfortunately, there are landlords who willingly resort to harassment and intimidation in order to encourage tenants to vacate their units. We need to protect renters against intimidation practices.''

Huizar said when he proposed the laws three years ago that the issue is ``complicated and requires a certain amount of deliberations.''

``But I feel that it's due time for the motion to move out of the Budget and Finance Committee and back to the City Council,'' Huizar said.

Since the summer, several neighborhood councils and members of the public have written to elected city leaders urging them to adopt the proposed tenant protections.

``Landlord harassment of tenants can take many forms and is one of the most prevalent hardships tenants face,'' Jesse Saucedo, an executive officer of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, said in a letter in November. ``L.A. Tenants Union estimates that up to 100,000 tenants have been evicted in Los Angeles during the last two years, with harassment being a primary contributor to those evictions.''

Officials with HCIDLA said the anti-harassment proposal could be heard by the full City Council by early 2020, and the department is currently working on a funding methods for a harassment enforcement program.

HCIDLA officials also said the proposal reflects existing laws as well as enhances them.

``Hence, some of the activities that tenants may be experiencing are already illegal under both the city ordinance and state law,'' said Sandra Mendosa, the public information officer with HCIDLA. ``Tenants who believe they are being harassed based on their immigration status should seek legal assistance from a legal services provider.''

The draft ordinance available through the city's website shows that there would be 15 definitions of harassment, many of which describe retaliatory actions landlords may take against their renters.

The cities of San Francisco, Santa Monica and New York have established some kind of anti-harassment ordinances, and the tenant organizations said there is no reason that Los Angeles should not follow suit.

The City Council has enacted some tenant-protection laws in recent months. It unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance in October aimed at halting ``no-fault'' evictions of many rental-unit tenants until Jan. 1, when a new state law takes effect providing similar protections.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in October signed the Tenant Protections Act of 2019, which is designed to prevent rent gouging and arbitrary evictions. The law, however, does not take effect until the beginning of the year, which had raised fears that landlords would evict tenants or rapidly increase rents in advance of the law being enacted.

No-fault evictions are defined as tenants being evicted for reasons that are no fault of their own.

The council also approved in October just under $3 million to fund a program that makes up the difference in certain low-income earners' rent increases through the end of the year.

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