Eviction. How and Why

OCT17evict Last issue, we described how apartment units under L.A.’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO)—generally those in multifamily buildings built before 1978—have restrictions on raising rents.

The other principal job of the RSO is setting terms for when a tenant can be evicted, aka “just-cause evictions”. The city allows fourteen legal reasons that a landlord can evict someone from a rent-stabilized unit: eight of these are the result of actions by the tenant, and six are by no fault of the tenant but allowed nonetheless.

Failure to pay rent, violating the lease, being a nuisance, using the apartment for illegal activity, and not being the person who signed the lease (or someone approved to live in the unit) make up five of the obvious reasons for an at-fault eviction. California law states a landlord can move to evict a tenant with only three-day advance written notice for these (the tenant then has three days to correct so they don’t have to move out). 

One can also lose their apartment for denying the landlord entrance (the landlord must give twenty-four hours advance notice) or obstructing the landlord’s ability to do major repairs. The latter only applies if the landlord has filed a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) with the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID), who are tasked with enforcing the rent stabilization ordinance. THPs are intended to ensure tenants’ right to temporary replacement housing under the same conditions of the lease while the landlord does significant construction. Unfortunately, the Tenants Union has found that this system is ripe for abuse, with certain landlords making tenants leave via the THP process and then not providing relocation or even turning around and obstructing their return. If you receive a notice regarding a THP for your building, be sure you confirm all details (such as the address of your relocation—one landlord in Echo Park listed a cemetery for his tenants) and seek help from an attorney or tenants organization if there’s any confusion.

Finally, when a lease ends one can be evicted if they refuse to renew or sign a new contract that is the same as the expiring one.

On the other side, one can face a no-fault eviction from an RSO unit if the landlord needs the apartment to move in their family, building manager, or themselves. If a government agency told the landlord to empty the units; if the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is actually the owner and wants to sell the building; or, if the landlord will convert the building to government-certified affordable housing, then a tenant is also subject to eviction. The same holds true if the building is a residential hotel that the landlord will convert or demolish.

The most frequent type of no-fault evictions occur when a landlord intends to remove a building from the housing market—for example, to convert it to condominiums or offices. This happens under the Ellis Act, a 1985 state law that allows landlords to evict tenants when removing units from the rental pool. Just like THPs, the process must be approved by HCID before starting, but there is little oversight after the fact. After an Ellis Act eviction, a building must remain out of the market for five years. Instead, the Tenants Union has seen units available on AirBnB right after eviction, new tenants moving in while evicted tenants move out, and emptied buildings immediately sold to developers to build new apartments in their place. There have been 21,000+ Ellis Act evictions in L.A. since 2001.

For any of the reasons behind a no-fault eviction, the landlord is required to compensate a tenant for relocation. According to HCID, payment “depends on whether the tenant is an Eligible or Qualified tenant, the length of tenancy, and the tenant’s income.” A Qualified tenant is 62 or older, disabled, or has minor dependents living with them. All other tenants are Eligible ones. Current relocation rates run $7,550–$19,500 per leaseholder.

If one does not live in a rent-stabilized building, a landlord may evict for any reason. However, the law requires that advanced written notice be given: a landlord terminating a month-to-month tenancy must offer sixty-day notice to someone who has lived in a unit for more than a year, or thirty-day notice for less than a year. 

Mostly, that notice does not have to state the landlord’s reason for eviction. This is one of the key arguments for expansion of RSO: anyone in an apartment built after 1978 is susceptible to a sudden eviction. Can you imagine having just sixty days to find another place to live in L.A. in the middle of a worsening affordability crisis?

So what happens when one receives an eviction notice? Can an eviction be contested? We’ll cover that next.

Illustration by Peter Hermann 


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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