Council Approves Relocation Assistance Following Rent Increases for Tenants

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The City Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday requiring landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants in Los Angeles who move out following certain rent increases.

The ordinance -- which the council preliminarily approved last week -- is the final part of a package of tenant protections the council sought to implement after it voted to end the local state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of January. The ordinance contains an urgency clause, but will not move forward immediately because two council members -- John Lee and Traci Park -- dissented in the 10-2 vote.

"This is the last of six votes that we've taken on a package of renter protections that I think will be transformative for Los Angeles moving forward," said Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who was among the council members pushing for the protections.

Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors extended through March its tenant protections against eviction for those impacted by COVID- 19, which would cover city residents.

Under the city ordinance, if a landlord increases rent by more than 10% or the Consumer Price Index plus 5%, the landlord must pay the tenant three times the fair market rent for relocation assistance, plus $1,411 in moving costs.

According to the city's housing department, fair market rent for a one- bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,747 and $2,222 for a two-bedroom. The new ordinance would provide relocation assistance for tenants of units that are not already covered by the city's rent-stabilization ordinance or state law -- meaning it would cover an additional 84,000 rental units in Los Angeles that were built after 2008.

The council already voted for ordinances that require universal just- cause for evictions and allow tenants behind on rent to stay in their apartments for a month, unless they owe more than one month's worth of fair market rent.

Lee said the relocation assistance ordinance tips the scale too far in the direction of tenants, and "the other side is left holding the short end."

"We need to be doing everything we can to incentivize the creation of more affordable housing in the city," Lee said. "We need to be finding ways to keep small mom-and-pop landlords in this city. But instead we keep going for policies that place a huge financial burden on housing providers, making it harder and harder to operate in the city of Los Angeles."

Raman responded by making a "personal commitment" to Lee that she would be willing to partner with him in working to create more housing in the city. Both of the members also sit on the council's housing committee.

"We can't do that until we create an environment in this city that is friendly to those builders, to those laborers that help us to build that housing," Raman said.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez agreed with Lee's concerns but ultimately voted for the ordinance because of the immediate need to help tenants.

"I know we will continue to endure some of the implications as a result of some of these decisions, but I also recognize the circumstances of our necessity to provide these types of protections," Rodriguez said.

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