Every renter in the City of Los Angeles is guaranteed certain rights to protect them from undue harm. Los Angeles has some of the highest legal protections for renters in California, but these protections are only effective when we're all informed. I am working to expand rights for renters and help keep people in their homes, but in the meantime, it's important for every renter to know their rights.
But first, let's figure out what kind of apartment you're in.
The legal landscape is different for renters living in a building covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), and those living in a non-RSO building or renting a single-family home. The Rent-Stabilization Ordinance covers apartment buildings built on or before October 1, 1978. If you live in an RSO building, your annual rent increases are capped at a rate relative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and determined by the Rent Adjustment Commission. If you aren't sure if you live in an RSO building, click here or text RSO to 1-855-880-7368.
Rights for Renters Living in an RSO Building
1. Rent-increase Protections: RSO units can only have rent increases once per year, and the rent can only go up by a certain percentage, set by the Rent Adjustment Commission. Currently, the rate is 4 percent.
2. Protection from no-fault evictions: If you live in an RSO unit, there are a limited number of reasons that a landlord may legally use to evict you, including failure to pay rent, violating the terms of the rental agreement or lease, and others. Click here to read the full list of legal reasons for eviction in an RSO unit.
3. Relocation Assistance: If you live in an RSO unit and receive a surprise eviction notice, don't panic. Landlords of RSO buildings are only allowed to evict tenants if they have just cause and have issued written warnings to the tenant, or through the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to leave the rental business altogether. If you have received a notice that you are being evicted through the Ellis Act, call the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID) at 1-866-557-7368 and ask if your landlord has filed all of the proper Ellis Act paperwork. If your landlord has not filed the required Ellis Act paperwork with the City, this is not a real eviction notice, and you are not obligated to vacate.
If your landlord has filed the Ellis Act paperwork with the City and is going through the process of leaving the rental market, you are entitled to a minimum of 120 days to vacate as well as relocation assistance compensation. Relocation assistance money is calculated on a number of factors, including age, income, length of residence in your unit, and more. To learn more about the relocation assistance you are entitled to, as well as your rights under the Ellis Act, click here.
4. Right of Return: If you are being evicted from an RSO building under the Ellis Act, you have the right to return to the rental unit, should it become available, at a similar rate you paid before being displaced. If you are interested in returning to the unit, you must advise the landlord in writing within 30 days of your displacement of your intent to return. The property owner is required to then inform you if and when a rental unit becomes available, and allow 30 days for your response. It is important to make sure your landlord and HCID have a copy of your new mailing address after you have been displaced by the Ellis Act. To learn more about right of return under the Ellis Act, click here.
Rights for Renters Living in Any Apartment (RSO or Not)
1. The Right to Clean and Habitable Housing: You have the right to live in housing that is clean and livable. This means housing with functioning windows and doors, working plumbing with hot and cold water, proper heating and cooling, proper insulation, and housing that's free of vermin, mold and other infestations. In other words, all housing in Los Angeles must meet basic standards of livability.
2. The Right to Immediate Remedy of Inhabitable Housing Conditions:If you find that your unit is not meeting legal standards of livability, your landlord is required to remedy it immediately. Start by talking to your landlord in person or over the phone. If this doesn't work, write and send a dated letter with time-stamped pictures of the uninhabitable conditions to your landlord, keeping a copy for your records. If that doesn't work, you can report the violation with the City here, which will inform your landlord of the issue and schedule an inspection with a City official. Though your landlord is legally obligated to not collect rent while you are living in uninhabitable housing, you should keep making timely payments in order to maintain your side of the rental agreement and save yourself from risk of eviction.
3. The Right to Protection from Retaliation: If you file a complaint, your landlord is not allowed to evict you because of it. If you think your landlord is trying to retaliate for your filing of a valid complaint, contact HCID immediately.
4. The Right of Notice Before Landlord Enters Unit: Your landlord is required to give you 24 hour notice before entering your unit for any reason, unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
5. Notice of Rent Increases: If you have a lease, your rent is only allowed to go up when the lease is renewed. For example, in a one-year lease agreement, your rent can only go up once a year. In a month-to-month rental unit, your rent can go up at any time, but your landlord is required to give you 30 day notice if the rent increase is 10 percent or less, and 60 days notice if the rent increase is more than 10 percent.
6. Right to Rent Free From Discrimination: Under the Fair Housing Act and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is illegal for a landlord or property owner to discriminate against potential tenants because of their race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income or physical or mental disability.
Watch Out for The 'Cash for Keys' Trap
Some landlords of RSO buildings have attempted to evict or displace tenants by offering money to tenants if they vacate the unit. Don't fall for this "cash for keys" tactic - in many cases, you have no legal obligation to vacate the unit, and the money you are entitled to if you are being legally evicted is often much higher than what landlords will offer in the "cash for keys" scheme. Remember, if you live in an RSO building - you are entitled to compensation and a minimum of 120 days to relocate. If you are being offered a "cash for keys" deal or facing any other pressure to vacate your unit, alert HCID right away at 1-866-557-7368.
You're Not Alone
Knowing your rights as a renter can be confusing, and facing potential eviction or rent increases can be incredibly stressful to navigate. Fortunately, there are a number of great nonprofits to assist you and fight for your rights. You can review your rights at the HCID website, or seek help from any of the local organizations below:
- Eviction Defense Network
- Housing Rights Center
- Los Angeles Tenants Union
- Coalition for Economic Survival
- Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
If you live in Council District Four and believe your rights as a renter are being violated, let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (213) 473-7004 right away.