The Los Angeles City Council’s Housing Committee recommended Wednesday that the city explore a “right to counsel” ordinance that would guarantee tenants have access to the information and representation they need when faced with landlord harassment, eviction or other issues.
The motion, which was introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz, would direct the Housing and Community Investment Department to develop recommendations for such a program and report back to the City Council within 120 days.
An average of 54,239 unlawful detainer eviction cases have been filed per year over the last three years in Los Angeles County, according to the motion.
“With the 2018 Homeless Count showing nearly 10,000 people experiencing homelessness for the first time, it can be reasonably concluded that the combined impacts of evictions and rental housing unaffordability are contributing substantially to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles,” the motion states.
Jim Bickhart, a policy and legislative consultant in Koretz’s office, told the committee that Koretz was partly inspired by Councilman Gil Cedillo’s successful effort to help create a multimillion-dollar legal defense fund for people facing deportations. Cedillo is chair of the Housing Committee.
“The current network of entities providing legal help to tenants in need reaches several thousand clients a year, leaving the vast majority of tenants on their own.” Bickhart said. “Some of them can’t afford to hire representation if they need it.”
A right to counsel law was approved by voters in San Francisco in June, and New York City adopted one last year, according to the motion.