Although the City of Los Angeles has enacted protections over the years to guard its renters from unlawful landlord conduct, including the Rent Stabilization Ordinance that limits rent increases and regulates evictions, tenants in Los Angeles have been demanding more. Due to the lack of affordable housing, tenants are often at the mercy of their landlord’s harassment, which is persistent, aggressive behavior meant to disrupt the tenant’s legal right to quiet enjoyment of their home. In response to the ever-present need to protect vulnerable tenants, the City of Los Angeles has adopted a new Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance that prohibits landlords from engaging in certain conduct that is intended to force a tenant to vacate their home. The ordinance provides tenants with the ability to sue their landlord for violations and makes violation a criminal offense. The law will go into effect August 6, 2021.
Am I protected under the City of Los Angeles Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
The ordinance applies to all residential rental units in the City of Los Angeles including single-family homes, condominiums, mobile homes, and recreational vehicles if the vehicle is in a mobile home park or recreational vehicle park. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.32.
The City of Los Angeles is divided into many districts and neighborhoods. Tenants that live in the various neighborhoods and districts within the City of Los Angeles may not realize that they are covered by the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance. Areas such as Echo Park, Encino, Highland Park, Hollywood, La Brea, Los Feliz, Northridge, San Pedro, Studio City, Van Nuys, and Venice are all covered by the ordinance. Tenants can check here to determine if they live in the City of Los Angeles.
What types of activity by a landlord are prohibited under the City of Los Angeles Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Tenant harassment is defined as “a landlord’s knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific tenant that seriously alarms or annoys the tenant, and that serves no legitimate purpose.” Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.33.
In the City of Los Angeles, landlords are prohibited from doing the following:
- Reducing or eliminating housing services, such as parking.
- Failing to perform necessary repairs and maintenance, or failing to follow applicable industry standards to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts.
- Abusing the right to access a rental unit, including entering or photographing areas of the unit that are beyond the scope of a lawful entry or inspection.
- Threatening a tenant with physical harm.
- Attempting to coerce a tenant to vacate with offer(s) of payments.
- Threatening to act or taking action to terminate a tenancy, such as serving a notice to quit, based on facts which the landlord has no reasonable cause to believe to be true.
- Interfering with or threatening to interfere with the tenant’s right to use and enjoy their unit.
- Misrepresenting to a tenant that they required to vacate the unit.
- Refusing to accept rent payments.
- Inquiring about a tenant’s immigration status.
- Threatening to disclose or disclosing a tenant’s immigration status.
- Threating to disclose or disclosing information about a tenant to any government entity for engaging in legally protected activities or to influence them to vacate.
- Violating federal, state, or local housing anti-discrimination laws.
- Retaliating, threatening, or interfering with a tenant organizing a tenant association or union.
- Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy.
- Any other repeated acts or omissions that substantially interfere with or disturb a tenant’s comfort, repose, peace or quiet and that cause, are likely to cause, or are committed with the objective to cause the tenant to vacate or waive their rights. Id.
For tenants who reside in rent-controlled units, harassment includes offering payment to a tenant to vacate their unit without providing a written notice of their rights under the City of Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 151.33.
Can I sue my landlord for violating the City of Los Angeles Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Yes. Tenants may sue their landlord and any person who aids, facilitates, or incites another to violate the ordinance, regardless of whether the unit remains occupied or has been vacated by the tenant due to the harassment. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.35. A tenant can recover actual damages, emotional distress damages, up to $10,000 per harassing act, and reasonable attorney fees and costs. Id. Tenants 65 years old or older are entitled to $15,000 per act. Id.
Before a tenant can sue their landlord under the ordinance for failure to repair and maintain the unit, they must first send a written notice to their landlord and provide a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to remedy the issues. Id
What other penalties may a landlord suffer for violating the City of Los Angeles Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance?
Landlords who violate the ordinance may be charged with an infraction or a misdemeanor and can be fined $1,000 for each offense. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.36.
Additionally, a tenant may use the landlord’s violation of the ordinance as an affirmative defense in any eviction action. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.34.
If a tenant vacates a rent-controlled unit due to their landlord violating the ordinance, the unit can only be re-rented at the lawful rent in effect at the time the tenant vacated. Los Angeles, Cal. Mun. Code § 45.37.
Tenants in the City of Los Angeles who are being harassed by their landlord in violation of the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance should call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP at (415) 504-2165 to speak with a tenant attorney about their options.