Tenants’ rights advocates Friday called on the Los Angeles City Council to amend the city’s proposed tenant harassment ordinance to include stronger enforcement measures.
The City Council’s Housing Committee is scheduled to review the draft ordinance on Wednesday, according to the city clerk.
“We are urging the council members to take a serious look at this situation and to go ahead and pass the anti-harassment ordinance,” an advocate said at the rally organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “This is a very serious matter. The more you ignore it, the bigger it gets.”
The draft ordinance defines harassment in several ways, including reducing or eliminating housing services, such as parking; failing to perform necessary repairs and maintenance; abusing the right to access a rental unit; threatening a tenant with physical harm; misrepresenting to a tenant that the tenant is required to vacate the unit; refusing to accept rent payments; and inquiring about a tenant’s immigration status.
Under the measure, if harassment occurs, a tenant that prevails in court may be awarded compensation for damages, rent refunds for reduction in housing services, reasonable compensation for attorney’s fees and more. A landlord might also be fined up to $5,000 if the tenant is older than 65 years of disabled, under the proposed ordinance.
ACCE wants the ordinance to go further by making tenant harassment a misdemeanor, providing funds to implement the law, and allowing tenants to return to the unit and pay the same amount of rent if a judge finds that an eviction occurred through harassment.
The process leading up to drafting the ordinance began in February 2017, when former Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion to have the Housing and Community Investment Department review other cities’ tenant harassment ordinances and report on the feasibility of adopting a similar one in Los Angeles.
Tenants’ rights advocates Friday expressed frustration that it has been over three years and an ordinance has still not been passed.
“What are you waiting for? This anti-harassment bill, it’s already been three years that the committee has been trying to pass this. Council members, we don’t have much time,” a rally participant said.
Advocates pointed to the case of Sofia Mendoza, a South Los Angeles renter who they say has received about 300 letters from her landlord threatening eviction in alleged retaliation for her complaints to city inspectors about neglected repairs and slum-like conditions.
“This landlord has been coming daily into her house without announcement, she comes in and yells at them,” an advocate said during the rally.
ACCE organizers say that Mendoza is just one of many in Los Angeles facing harassment from landlords.
“We want to send this message out to all tenants that have been affected by these harassments at the hands of the landlords, these unlawful evictions. We want you to go to your nearest ACCE office in Los Angeles and also locate tenant rights offices so your situation may be heard,” an activist said.
More information about ACCE, including office locations, can be found at www.acceaction.org/.