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LA County approves temporary rent control measure

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The measure will apply to unincorporated parts of LA County

Apartment building
The measure will take effect December 20.
Photo by Liz Kuball

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of a temporary rent control measure that will prevent landlords in unincorporated parts of the county from raising rents more than 3 percent each year.

The “rent freeze” will be in effect for the next 180 days, while the board evaluates whether to extend or expand upon the measure.

The policy will go into effect December 20 and will apply to most apartments built prior to 1995. To ensure that landlords don’t hit tenants with steep rent increases before the ordinance takes effect, the rules will apply to rent prices in place on September 11.

These temporary rules are similar to rent control ordinances in other parts of LA County, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and the city of Los Angeles. In addition to regulating allowable rent hikes, the restrictions also bar landlords from evicting tenants without “cause.”

Generally, that means that tenants can’t be forced out of rent-controlled apartments unless they have not paid rent or have violated the terms of their lease. Landlords can also evict tenants if they plan to move into the unit themselves or are taking the apartment off the rental market.

Dozens of people were in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting to speak for and against the measure. Tenant advocates argued that the rent protections are a necessary salve to residents stuck paying some of the nation’s least affordable rental prices.

Landlords and business advocates countered that the rules would hurt small apartment owners and discourage new development.

Some questioned why the county was considering rent control as an option after the defeat of Proposition 10, a statewide ballot measure that would have allowed California cities to place more buildings under rent control than allowed under current law.

The measure lost by a wide margin, failing to garner a majority of yes votes in LA County, as well as the rest of the state.

“Clearly, the board has made up their own minds regardless what their own constituents have made clear at the ballot box,” said California Apartment Owners Association spokesperson Beverly Kenworthy in a statement on behalf of the Los Angeles Coalition for Responsible Housing Solutions, which opposed Proposition 10.

But Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the proposal, argued that the proposition, which would have repealed the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, should not be seen as a referendum on measures like this one.

“I want to make clear that anything we pass is compliant with Costa Hawkins,” said Kuehl Tuesday. “So it didn’t matter which way Proposition 10 went.”

In a motion introducing the proposal, Kuehl and co-author Hilda Solis wrote that as “rents continue to spiral upward,” the county should “take action to protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases and evictions without just cause.”