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Bet Tzedek Applauds City of West Hollywood’s Actions to Protect Renters

(July 31, 2014 – West Hollywood, CA) Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a provider of free legal services to those who live, work and play in the City of West Hollywood for the past 30 years, applauded the city’s announced protections for its most vulnerable residents. Effective September 1, 2014, very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled who rent property under the federal government’s housing choice voucher program (Section 8) cannot have their rents raised beyond 1.25%, the city’s annual general adjustment.

“We are gratified that the City of West Hollywood has recognized the urgency to protect tenants under its Rent Stabilization Ordinance,” said Alla Chasnik, Bet Tzedek’s staff attorney for its work with the City of West Hollywood. “Without this protection, renters who could least afford it were facing monthly rent increases as high as $300 – an overwhelming burden.”

Prior to the emergency amendment unanimously passed July 21, 2014 by the city council, landlord applications to the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA) for uncapped rent increases were systematically approved. Tenants sought help from Bet Tzedek, and in turn, from the City of West Hollywood.

In the wake of the Barrientos decision of the 9th Circuit, the City of West Hollywood was also persuaded to take additional steps to protect Section 8 tenants. The city will require landlords to show “just cause” and obtain special approval before terminating a federally subsidized tenancy. Other non-rent control jurisdictions continue to allow landlords to cite mere economic interests to justify terminating rental contracts and evicting Section 8 tenants.

“West Hollywood’s Elizabeth Savage, director of the department of human services and rent stabilization, AND Peter Noonan, rent stabilization manager, have been tremendous partners to us and great friends to those who depend on Section 8 housing,” added Michelle Kezirian, managing attorney at Bet Tzedek. “Armed with the information about the real threats to very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled, the city rose to the occasion and set a new bar in protecting tenants – a move other jurisdictions should follow.”

Michael Soloff, a partner at Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP, provided pro bono counsel to Bet Tzedek’s West Hollywood project staff, including Alla Chasnik and Equal Justice Works Fellow, Nicholas Levenhagen. In recent months, the team assisted numerous West Hollywood residents and city staff on these matters.

About Bet Tzedek
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek pursues equal justice for all by providing high-quality, free legal services to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek uses direct legal service, impact litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy in the areas of consumer rights, employment rights, elder justice/caregiver law, Holocaust reparations, housing, human trafficking, public benefits and real estate to serve more than 23,000 people every year.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with Alla Chasnik or Michelle Kezirian, please call Kirsty Burkhart at (323) 549-5802 or email her at kburkhart@bettzedek.org.