What to Know About Los Angeles City's Proposed Anti Tenant Harassment Law
Los Angeles City has just proposed new anti tenant harassment law. While the law has not been passed, given the trends, it is likely it will and look very close to what is proposed- which you can read here. Here is a break down of what is likely to come:
Who can be considered a harasser? All landlords, including owner, lessor, sublessor, manager, and/or person who rent to residential tenants. Note, this covers property managers as well.
Who is considered a tenant? Any tenant, subtenant, lessee, sublessee, or any other person entitled to use or occupy a rental unit.
What properties are subject to this? This warrants a bullet point list:
Single Family Residences
Suites, as defined in Section 12.03 of LAMC
All housing accommodations as defined in Government Code Section 12927
Mobile Homes (whether rent is paid for the mobile home and the land upon which the mobile home is located, or rent is paid for the land alone)
Recreational vehicles, as defined in California Civil Code Section 799.29, if located in a mobile home park or recreational vehicle park (whether rent is paid for the recreational vehicle and the land upon which it is located, or rent is paid for the land alone).
What is considered harassment? "Tenant Harassment shall be 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, including, but not limited to:" (here comes another list)
Reducing or eliminating housing services required by a lease, contract or law, including the elimination of parking if provided in the tenant’s lease or contract.
Failing to perform and timely complete necessary repairs and maintenance required by State, County, or local housing, health, or safety laws.
Failure to follow applicable industry standards to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead paint, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts.
Abuse of the right of access into a rental unit as established and limited by California Civil Code Section 1954.
Threatening a tenant, by word or gesture, with physical harm
Misrepresenting to a tenant that the tenant is required to vacate a rental unit.
Enticing a tenant to vacate a rental unit through an intentional misrepresentation or the concealment or omission of a material fact.
Threatening or terminating any tenancy based on facts which the landlord has no reasonable cause to believe to be true.
Threatening or engaging in any act or omission which interferes with the tenant’s right to use and enjoy the rental unit or whereby the premises are rendered unfit for human habitation and occupancy.
Refusing to acknowledge or accept receipt of lawful rent payments as set forth in the lease agreement or as established by the usual practice of the parties or applicable law.
Inquiring as to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, prospective additional tenant, occupant, or prospective additional occupant of a rental unit, or requiring any of these people to make any statement, representation, or certification concerning their immigration or citizenship status.
Disclosing or threatening to disclose to any person or entity information regarding the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, whether in retaliation for engaging in legally protected activities or to influence them to vacate or for any other reason.
Engaging in an activity prohibited by federal, state, or local housing anti-discrimination laws.
Retaliating, threatening, or interfering with tenant organizing activities, including forming or participating in tenant associations and unions.
Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy or requesting information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy, including, but not limited to, residency or citizenship status or social security number, except as authorized by law.
I highlighted the main ones. I've heard of or dealt with landlords engaging in the above, which I do not condone at all. Desperate times lead to desperate measures. However, those desperate measures could lead to a lawsuit being filed against you.
What happens if a landlord is caught doing the above? The tenant can use the new law as an affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer (eviction). Further, this law will give tenants a right to file a lawsuit against their landlord for harassing behavior. A lawsuit could result in the tenant being awarded:
Rent refunds for reduction in housing services
Reasonable attorney's fees and costs
Imposition of civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation depending
If a tenant prevailing under this article is older than 65 years or disabled when any of the harassing conduct occurred, the court may impose additional civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation
Any other relief a judge deems appropriate.
This lawsuit would likely be filed in conjunction with other laws that prohibit the above conduct, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act and habitability and quiet enjoyment laws.
Also, violating this law could result in criminal punishment as an infraction or misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction under would be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 for each offense or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.
Can a landlord mitigate liability? Sort of. The proposed laws requires a tenant to give landlord notice of the alleged harassing conduct and reasonable time for the landlord to correct their actions, such as make required repairs or reinstate services that were taken away. If the landlord fails to correct then the tenant would be able to file a civil suit.
When will this go into effect? Not sure yet. It is waiting on signature from Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Landlords are prudent to think twice before taking any risk moves to get possession. This case in the hands of a savvy tenant attorney will be very costly. More costly than a tenant buyout would likely be.
If you have any questions about this topic, landlord-tenant law or property management consulting you may contact me by phone at (818) 306-0686 or by email at email@example.com
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