The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to give residential tenants the authority to sue their landlords if they violate the coronavirus emergency orders by trying to evict them or garnish their federal stimulus checks for missed rent.
Under the Safer at Home orders, Los Angeles does not allow for “no-fault” evictions to take place, including missing rent payments. Tenants have one year after the orders are lifted to pay back the rent they owe.
“The Los Angeles City Council has taken bold action throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect Angelenos and renters with some of the most robust and legally sound policy in the nation to keep renters in their units,” said City Council President Nury Martinez, who authored the temporary laws.
“And today, we approved additional language to allow tenants to pursue legal action and fines against unscrupulous landlords who egregiously and maliciously violate any of the numerous protections laid out in the city’s eviction moratorium.”
Councilman Bob Blumenfield authored a motion that also passed to require landlords to show tenants the Housing and Community Investment Department of Los Angeles’ list of tenant rights during the COVID-19 pandemic before beginning legal proceedings to evict those tenants.
Landlords will have 15 days to correct any violations that have been brought to their attention.
“Right now, dispersing factual information is imperative, and it’s critical that tenants know their rights and are aware of the emergency protection measures passed by the City Council,” Blumenfield said.
The ordinance states that residential tenants would be able to seek civil restitution up to $10,000 per violation, depending on the severity of the violation.
If a residential tenant filing the lawsuit is older than 65 or disabled, the ordinance allows the court to award an additional civil penalty up to $15,000 per violation, depending on the severity of the violation.
“While I thank the majority of good landlords in the city of Los Angeles who during this pandemic are working hard with their tenants to ensure they can stay in their units, I want the bad operators to know, today, the city of Los Angeles is putting you on notice,” Martinez said.