Los Angeles Tenant Laws
Though tenants in Los Angeles enjoy many protections under the law, the laws are useless if tenants don’t know how to exercise them. To learn your rights and how to exercise them, schedule a consultation today.
Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance
Los Angeles is one of the many jurisdictions in California where tenants have more protection under the Municipal Code than under California state laws. Los Angeles’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (“RSO”) protects certain tenancies from things like excessive rental increases, evictions without just cause, and sudden, unfair, unilateral changes in the terms of a tenancy.
Tenants must first determine whether their tenancy is protected by the RSO. It applies to all residential rental units in Los Angeles unless the unit fits into one of the following exceptions:
1. Single family homes, except where two or more units are located on the same lot, like in the case of guest houses, duplexes or condominiums.
2. Buildings which were built and/or occupied after October 1, 1978 are exempt from the RSO, unless the rental is a mobile home coach, mobile home park, individual recreational vehicle or recreational vehicle park.
3. Hotels, motels, inns, tourist homes and boarding and rooming houses are also not subject to the RSO, unless the rental is the primary residence of the tenant for more than 30 days. It is illegal for a landlord to force tenants to check out and check back in to avoid application of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to their tenancy.
4. Hospitals, state licensed community care facilities, convents, monasteries, extended medical care facilities, asylums, fraternity or sorority houses, or housing accommodations owned, operated or managed by a school or university are not subject to the RSO.
5. Housing accommodations owned and operated by the Los Angeles City Housing Authority, or by a government agency are not subject to the RSO. This exception does not apply to rental units for which rental assistance is paid pursuant to the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
6. Luxury housing accommodations, which are housing accommodations which rented for more than $300-$800 in 1978, depending on the size; the landlord must have a certificate from the city recognizing the unit as exempt for that reason.
7. Units that have undergone substantial renovation, if they have a certificate from the city. Housing accommodations for which renovation work was started and completed on or after September 1, 1980 and cost at least:
• $10,000 for a unit with no bedrooms;
• $11,000 for a unit with one bedroom;
• $13,000 for a unit with two bedrooms;
• $15,000 for a unit with three bedrooms;
• $17,000 for a unit with four bedrooms or more.
This exemption only applies if a certificate of exemption has been requested and issued by the city, so if your landlord is claiming that the unit is exempt for this reason, the tenant should be sure to ask for the proof.
8. Recreational vehicles occupied by tenants who have not lived in the park for at least nine months straight. This exception doesn’t apply when the vacancy occurs because the park operator terminated the previous tenancy for good cause as required by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
9. Affordable housing accommodations: housing accommodations where the owner has signed an agreement with a government agency guaranteeing that the rentals will be affordable to low income households for at least 55 years. Landlords must obtain a certificate from the city, which may be revoked if the landlord breaches the agreement.
10. Mobile home parks with occupancy permits issued after February 10, 1986: If acreage is added to a mobile home park with a permit issued before 2/10/1986, then any site located on the additional acreage is exempt. However, any new home sites created within the boundaries of an existing park through increased density or elimination of open space is still subject to the rent control laws.
The landlord must register rental units with the city, and may not legally charge rent unless the unit is registered.
If the RSO applies to the unit, then the landlord can’t charge rent unless the rental unit is registered with the city of Los Angeles. The landlord must either give the tenant a copy of the registration statement or display it in a visible place on the property. The landlord must give the tenant an annual registration renewal for the rental unit.
The landlord must post a notice providing information about the tenants’ rights under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance in English and Spanish
As of August 2009, landlords must post a notice on a form provided by the city that provides information about the Rent Stabilization Ordinance Department contact information. Notices must be posted in both English and Spanish and in a clearly visible location in the lobby of the property, near a mailbox used by all residents on the property, or in or near a public entrance to the property.
The landlord may not charge rent that exceeds the limit established by the city
Landlords are not entitled to charge whatever amount of rent they would like. The city imposes maximum rents, called rental ceilings or rent caps. If a landlord wants to charge more rent that is allowed by the rental ceiling, then he or she must inform the tenant or prospective tenant in writing of the justification for the higher rent. Additionally, the landlord may only raise the rent once per year, and may not raise it by more than the yearly allowable percentage established by the city.
The landlord must pay interest on a tenant’s security deposit if it is in his or her possession for at least one year
A landlord must pay annual interest on all security deposits held for at least one year for his or her tenants, with the interest rate established by city periodically.
Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a landlord can only evict a tenant for one or more of the following reasons:
1. The tenant doesn’t pay the rent to which the landlord is legally entitled. Note: if the tenant is refusing to pay rent which the landlord is illegally collecting, such as an illegal rent increase, excess rent which violates the rental caps established by the RSO, or rent which has been legally withheld as a result of uninhabitable conditions in the rental unit, the tenant mayhave a defense. (link to page encouraging them to schedule a consultation to determine whether they have a defense, and to determine the strength of their defense: talk to an attorney now to understand your rights and potential defenses)
2. The tenant violates the terms of the tenancy and doesn’t stop violating the terms even after the landlord notifies him or her in writing of the violation and asks the tenant to stop such violation. The landlord’s right to evict for this reason is limited in certain circumstances, including if the landlord changed the terms of the tenancy without the tenant’s consent. If alandlord unilaterally changes the terms of a tenancy and then tries to evict a tenant for breaching the new terms, the tenant may have a defense to the eviction.
3. The tenant commits or permits damage to the rental unit or creates an unreasonable interference with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of any of the other residents of the rental complex.
4. The tenant uses or permits the use of the rental property for an illegal purpose.
5. The tenant refuses to sign a written extension or renewal after the expiration of a lease or rental agreement; note, however, that the new lease must contain similar provisions and be of a like duration in order to serve as the basis for an eviction. If the landlord tries to substantially change the terms of a tenancy, it is a violation of the tenant’s rights. Schedule a consultation to protect your rights before you sign a legally binding agreement which alters your rights as a tenant.
6. The tenant refuses the landlord reasonable access to the unit for the purpose of making repairs or improvements, or for the purpose of inspection as permitted or required by the lease or by law, or for the purpose of showing the rental unit to any prospective purchaser or mortgagee. Note: the law requires that the landlord give the tenant written notice of entry at least 24 hours in advance unless it is an emergency. If the landlord attempts to enter the tenant’s unit without consent or in an attempt to harass or influence the tenant to leave, the landlord is subject to strict fines and statutory damages of up to $2,000 per illegal entry. To find out whether your rights are being violated by your landlord’s illegal entries, schedule a consultation today.
7. The person in possession of the rental unit at the end of a lease term is a subtenant not approved by the landlord.
8. The landlord seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit for use and occupancy as a primary place of residence by:
(a) The landlord; or
(b) The landlord’s spouse, grandchildren, children, parents or grandparents; or
(c) A resident manager.
Note: if the landlord evicts a tenant for this reason, the tenant is entitled to relocation fees. To ensure you receive everything you are entitled to under the law, schedule a consultation today.
9. The landlord seeks in good faith to recover possession so as to undertake Primary Renovation Work of the rental unit or the building housing the rental unit, and the tenant is unreasonably interfering with the implantation of the work. Note: the landlord must strictly comply with statutory provisions before starting renovation work on a building. Tenants impacted by construction work may be entitled to permanent or temporary relocation assistance and other costs. To find out your rights during construction, schedule a consultation today.
10. The landlord seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit under either of the following circumstances:
a. to demolish the rental unit; or
b. to remove the rental unit permanently from rental housing use.
Note: if a tenant is evicted for this reason, the landlord must pay a minimum relocation cost determined by the RSO. To ensure you receive everything you are entitled to under the law, schedule a consultation today.
11. The landlord seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit in order to comply with a governmental agency’s order to vacate, order to comply, order to abate, or any other order that necessitates the vacating of the building housing the rental unit as a result of a violation of the Los Angeles Municipal Code or any other provision of law. Note: tenants evicted for this reason are entitled to relocation assistance. To ensure you receive everything you are entitled to under the law, schedule a consultation today.
12. The landlord seeks to recover possession of the rental unit to convert the subject property to an affordable housing accommodation. The landlord must strictly comply with legal guidelines and follow through on the conversion, and if he or she fails to convert the units as claimed, the tenant has the right of first refusal to the unit if it is re-rented.
All tenants have rights, even if their units are not governed by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
All Los Angeles tenants have many rights by virtue of California law. To find out more about your rights as a tenant, schedule a consultation today.