Housing Insecurity Solutions: How Los Angeles Transforms Pandemic Challenges into Tenant Protections

As the last of the eviction moratoriums ticks down to its final days, it can be difficult to remember just how profound the housing crisis created by COVID-19 really was.  With the devastating impact of the pandemic came a diverse set of tenant protections across the state.  Eviction moratoriums, rent freezes, and expansion of just cause for eviction requirements became common as governments large and small sought to keep people at home and away from one another where they could spread disease more rapidly.  Now, most of those protections have disappeared, along with disinfectant stations, mask displays, and improvised immunization centers, until the next major crisis.  Some places, however, have learned from the brutal realization of just how fragile housing security can be and have taken steps to address the challenge moving forward. 

One of these places is the city of Los Angeles, which has enacted a new just cause for eviction ordinance.  Prior to its passage, only homes protected by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and the state Tenant Protection Act were safe from landlords simply choosing to force tenants out at the end of their lease terms.  This included almost all single-family homes, as well as apartments built in the last fifteen years.   

Now, landlords must provide a just cause for eviction in order to regain possession.  Tenants can also only be evicted for failure to pay rent if they owe more than a month’s rent at the fair market value for their unit.  Evictions for no fault just causes must be accompanied by relocation expenses.  And lastly, while the ordinance does not impose a cap on rent increases, it requires tenants facing a rent increase greater than 1-% be offered relocation expenses. 

Los Angeles had felt the pressure of housing insecurity before the arrival of COVID-19, but it is safe to say that it has not taken the lessons of the pandemic lightly.  This new law serves as a silver lining to a tragic legacy, which will hopefully show other governments a path forward to secure housing for all before our state’s next great trial, whatever that may be.