Mass rent-control evictions are rising quickly, according to a new report from the LA Times, and the effect on Los Angeles's affordable housing shortage might be even larger than the data suggests. The investigation by the Times revealed that 1,137 rent-controlled units were removed from the market in 2015--a number that has nearly tripled since 2013, while the number of evictions from rent-controlled units has doubled. In total, over 20,000 units have left the market since 2001.
These removals haven't put too much of a dent in the number of rent-controlled apartments still available in the city (around 641,000), but tenant advocates say the removal of even a few affordable units can have a big impact on the rental market.
California's Ellis Act, passed in 1985, allows landlords to evict tenants if they plan to demolish a building or take it off the rental market. Since 2006, over 1,000 Ellis Act applications have been filed with the city. Recent incidents in which tenants evicted under the Ellis Act have seen their former apartments sit empty or even wind up on Airbnb suggest not all landlords are using the law responsibly.
Meanwhile, as the Times suggests, some landlords are using threats of eviction as leverage to get tenants to agree to cash buyouts for their units--allowing landlords to re-rent them at much higher prices. In San Francisco's crowded rental market, these buyouts have become so common that a new tech startup (naturally) has emerged to negotiate them.
In San Francisco, the amounts of these buyouts must be disclosed to the city, but in Los Angeles such data is not available. As a result, landlords may be buying out tenants for even less than the amount they would be required to pay in Ellis Act relocation fees. The Times story highlights one instance in which the owners of an apartment building gave tenants 90 day eviction notices without actually having filed any Ellis Act paperwork. Though the property managers say they have no current plans to sell or convert the units into condos, the threat of eviction convinced almost half of the building's residents to accept a buyout.
- More rent-controlled buildings are being demolished to make way for pricier housing [LA Times]
- Mapped: Where Mass Rent-Control Evictions Are Ramping Up in LA [Curbed LA]
- Mass Rent-Control Evictions Doubled in Los Angeles Last Year [Curbed LA]
- The Bounty on Evicted Tenants' Heads May Be As Much As $130K [Curbed SF]