Los Angeles County's temporary rent stabilization ordinance will become a permanent state of affairs.

Earlier today, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the drafting of a permanent rent stabilization ordinance which would cover all unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County - home to more than 1 million people.  The ordinance, which was initiated by a motion introduced by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, will limit annual rent increases to reflect the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous 12-month period, with a maximum increase of 8 percent under the following limits:

  • if the CPI is greater than 8 percent, the annual maximum allowable rent increase will be limited to 8 percent;
  • if the CPI is between 3 percent and 8 percent, the maximum annual increase will be equal to CPI; 
  • if CPI is between 1 percent and 3 percent the maximum allowable increase will be 3 percent; 
  • if CPI is between -2 percent and 1 percent, the maximum allowable rent increase will be equal to CPI plus 2 percent; and 
  • if CPI is less than -2 percent, the maximum allowable rent increase will be zero.

This is similar to the City of Los Angeles' Rent Stabilization Ordinance, in which annual increases are also indexed to CPI.  The Los Angeles area CPI has increased at rates ranging between 0.9 percent and 3.8 percent since 2010.

Besides regulating annual rent increases, the permanent rent stabilization ordinance will:

  • prohibit evictions without just cause; 
  • impose limits on what constitutes just cause arising from an owner move-in; 
  • require landlords to provide tenants with reasonable relocation assistance - including monetary payments - when they are evicted without fault or temporarily displaced;
  • allow tenants to claim a downward adjustment in rent if a landlord reduces housing services or is noncompliant with the rent stabilization ordinance; 
  • allow an additional 2 percent above CPI annual rent increase through December 31, 2023 for luxury market-rate units with two bedrooms or less in buildings of 25 units or more, where the unit had a base rent of $4,000 per month on September 11, 2018;
  • require owners of any housing unit held for rent to register the unit with the County and pay any applicable fee; 
  • allow tenants to verify unit registration information submitted by the property owner; and
  • maximize tenant protections when the landlord leaves the rental market business under the Ellis Act.

Landlords would retain the ability to pass through up to 50 percent of the cost of building upgrades onto tenants, amortized over a period of time.  Additionally, the permanent ordinance will allow rental units that are vacated voluntarily to revert to market rate for future tenants.

The vote by the Board of Supervisors instructs the Los Angeles County Development Authority and other relevant County departments to develop a permanent ordinance by November 12, 2019.  Additional, the Development Authority has been instructed to report back in 120 days on the feasibility of requiring landlords to offer relocation assistance to tenants who are displaced from rental units not covered by the permanent rent stabilization ordinance.

Unanimous support for the permanent ordinance was apparent at the beginning of the meeting.  Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District in northern Los Angeles County, argued that the ordinance may result in rental units being taken off the market. ultimately hurting renters.

Joe Nicchitta, the Director of the County’s Consumer and Business Affairs Department, reported that the temporary ordinance has helped many residents in unincorporated areas by creating a framework for addressing conflicts between renters and landlords.  He cited cases of residents who had faced rent increases of 50 percent or greater - well in excess of the 3 percent limit imposed by the temporary ordinance.

Barger, who had previously stated her opposition to the measure, eventually voted in support.

Los Angeles County's permanent rent control measure follows an effort by the State Legislature to adopt similar renter protections across California.  AB 1482, which faces a September 13 deadline for approval, would cap rent increases statewide at 5 percent plus inflation for the next decade.

Many speakers in opposition to the Los Angeles County ordinance urged the Board of Supervisors to delay action until the statewide legislation 

At the local level, Los Angeles County jurisdictions such as Inglewood and Culver City have already instituted their own rent control measures, joining Los Angeles and Santa Monica, which adopted similar laws decades ago.  Rent stabilization laws are also being considered in Burbank, Long Beach, Pasadena, and several other cities.

The County’s rent stabilization ordinance is joined by a separate motion introduced by Supervisor Solis, which calls for the Public Defender’s Office and Consumer and Business Affairs Department to study the creation of new unit within the Public Defender’s Office which could provide legal representation for tenants and unhoused persons.  A report back to the Board is also scheduled to occur within 120 days.

“For far too many, a dramatic rent increase directly leads to homelessness – and many renters in LA County’s unincorporated communities saw positive benefits from the interim ordinance," reads a statement by Solis.  "However, making rent stabilization permanent and implementing eviction defense are just two tools in the toolbox to end homelessness – that’s why LA County is also working with our cities who are considering their own tenant protections. With our partners, we are focused on keeping our residents in their homes and off the streets.”