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Press Release: Tenant Rights Groups Celebrate Court Upholding New L.A. City Permanent Tenant Protections

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Denied AAGLA’s Preliminary Injunction and Allowed Tenant Groups to Join the City in the Defense of the Protections

See original press release on Public Counsel’s website.

LOS ANGELES – May 22, 2023 – The Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in support of tenants regarding two critical new City renter protection laws, as an ongoing legal challenge from a local landlords group threatens to stop them from being enforced.

Judge Mitchell Beckloff denied a motion from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) for a preliminary injunction to halt the enforcement of two renter protection ordinances recently adopted by the City of Los Angeles to protect thousands of vulnerable Angelenos from eviction and homelessness. Judge Beckloff also permitted tenant rights groups InnerCity Struggle (ICS) and Community Power Collective (CPC) to join the City in the defense of the protections.

Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), and Susman Godfrey LLP are the attorneys for ICS and CPC—organizations which represent thousands of low-income tenants who are still struggling to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic.

LA City Council adopted the new permanent tenant protections in February 2023 to safeguard renters’ housing security as COVID eviction protections expired. These ordinances include the Nonpayment Threshold Ordinance, which prohibits evictions based on nonpayment unless the tenant is behind at least one month’s fair market rent, and the Relocation Assistance for Economic Displacement Ordinance, which requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants forced to leave due to a significant rent increase. Angelenos can no longer be evicted for being a few dollars short on rent, nor will they be forced to move due in response to exorbitant rent increases without moving and relocation expenses.

AAGLA filed a lawsuit in March 2023 seeking to overturn the ordinances. The challenge is yet another attempt by AAGLA to undermine critical common-sense tenant protections in Los Angeles, so that landlords can more easily evict tenants or use rent increases to force tenants to self-evict.

“The new permanent tenant protections adopted by the LA City Council were part of a historic expansion of tenant rights in the city and were designed to help keep thousands of tenants housed in an increasingly unaffordable city. Today, the court affirmed these policies by denying AAGLA’s attempts to halt their enforcement,” said Stephano Medina, Staff Attorney at Public Counsel.

“Tenants in our communities—predominantly low-income families of color—were already struggling before the pandemic to keep up with climbing rent and cost of living. The pandemic exacerbated these struggles and made them impossible to ignore,” said Ruby Rivera, Senior Director of Community Organizing at ICS. “We know our communities need more, and these new permanent tenant protections are a crucial start to confronting a crisis of housing instability and displacement that has existed in Los Angeles for far too long.”

It is vital that tenants in Los Angeles—especially those not protected by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance—are safeguarded against eviction, homelessness, and displacement, as many of the emergency tenant protections expired on March 31. The pandemic continues to negatively impact jobs and livelihoods, leaving an estimated one-third of households unable to afford rent. Rent was not affordable before the pandemic either, and short-term benefits like unemployment are slow to arrive, leaving tenants vulnerable to eviction in the interim. There is growing concern that without the City’s renter protections, a new wave of evictions and homelessness will occur.

“People of color and low-income families are disproportionately renters, more likely to struggle with rental payments in cases of emergency, and disproportionately subject to eviction proceedings, while gentrification fuels massive displacement in many neighborhoods,” said Cassidy Bennett, LAFLA Staff Attorney. “These policies provide tenants with breathing room to catch up on rent and stay in their homes or to find a new home in a difficult housing market.”

“These protections are some of the few safeguards we have to help struggling families make ends meet and avoid falling into homelessness,” said Nicholas Lampros, Bet Tzedek Staff Attorney.  “We must all do everything we can to defend these kinds of tenant protection policies from the special interests that are attempting to undermine them here in Los Angeles and across the state.”

Esmeralda Negrete is a single mother of three living in Boyle Heights and a full-time caretaker for her youngest with special needs while her eldest son works. However, during the pandemic, illness and an unstable job market dramatically impacted her son’s ability to work, destabilizing the household’s income. While her son is now back to work, the COVID-19 disruptions caused her to accrue significant rental debt, which they are now working to pay back during the City’s repayment period while also making rent payments going forward.

“For my family, the emergency protections are an important safety net,” said Esmeralda Negrete. “What if my son gets sick again and can’t work? At least with these new protections they can’t put us out on the streets for falling a little bit behind.”

About Community Power Collective

Community Power Collective builds power with low-income workers and tenants through transformative organizing to win economic justice, community control of land and housing, and to propagate systems of cooperation in Boyle Heights and the greater LA region.

About InnerCity Struggle

InnerCity Struggle’s mission is to ignite a transformational and intergenerational movement by building community power to advance justice, life opportunities, and dignity in the Eastside of Los Angeles.

About Public Counsel

Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.

About Bet Tzedek

Bet Tzedek – The House of Justice – is an internationally recognized force in economic justice law and one of the largest legal aid organizations in Los Angeles County. With more than 100 staff members, supported by more than 1,200 active volunteers nationally who effectively leverage our staff resources, Bet Tzedek assists those most in need with some of the most pressing legal issues faced by our communities, including: elder abuse, employment rights violations, landlord/tenant and housing matters, real estate fraud and foreclosure prevention, basic estate planning, Holocaust reparations, probate guardianship, low-income tax advocacy, small business development, transgender advocacy, and public benefits. With a growing volunteer base, we harness an award-winning pro bono model of service to help people of all communities and generations secure life’s necessities. In addition to direct legal representation in each of these areas, Bet Tzedek staff conducts expansive outreach and education programs, and undertakes impact litigation and policy advocacy on issues of significance to our clients. In 2022, we served over 85,000 individuals and families regardless of race, religion, immigration-status, or sexual orientation. For more information, visit www.bettzedek.org.

About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles is a nonprofit law firm that protects and advances the rights of the most underserved – leveling the playing field and ensuring that everyone can have access to the justice system. Every year, LAFLA provides free, high-quality legal services to more than 100,000 people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. Our unique combination of neighborhood offices, self-help centers at courthouses, and domestic violence clinics puts LAFLA on the front lines in vulnerable communities, and at the forefront of change.

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