Eviction Notice - Photo courtesy of Steve Heap on Shutterstock

The City Council is set to consider a slate of tenant protections Friday ahead of the expiration of the local state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of the month.

The council is under pressure to implement protections after voting to end the state of emergency on Feb. 1, a decision that also sunsets the temporary protections that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.

“If we don’t win permanent protections on Friday, far too many renters will end up on the streets,” Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez wrote on Twitter.

Soto-Martinez is among a group of council members who have sought to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency, but the most recent attempt fell short by one vote.

Members of the Keep LA Housed Coalition are expected to provide public comment to the council, with organizers planning to arrive two hours ahead of the meeting to ensure they can make it inside the chamber.

The council’s housing committee on Wednesday recommended approval of three key protections tenant advocates have called for — universal just cause to require a reason for evictions, relocation assistance if a tenant cannot pay rent increases of more than 10% and a one-month grace period for rent before evictions.

Tenant groups fear a wave of evictions once the long-standing protections expire. The volume of eviction filings has begun to resemble pre-pandemic levels, according to Kyle Nelson, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA and a member of the LA Renters’ Right to Counsel Coalition.

Nelson, who has compiled data on evictions in Los Angeles County during the pandemic through court filings, said the number of filings could increase to levels not seen since the Great Recession — which contributed to more than 72,000 eviction filings in 2008. According to the National Equity Atlas, there are 226,000 households in Los Angeles County behind on rent.

Just cause protections currently do not apply to apartment buildings built after 1978. If adopted by the full council, approximately 396,000 more rental units would be protected.

The committee, on a 3-2 vote, sought for just cause protections to kick in upon the expiration of the lease or after 12 months, whichever comes first. The draft ordinance had called for immediate protections, but three members had concerns over unintended consequences on short-term leases.

The committee also voted 4-1 to recommend protections against rent increases and assistance on payment of rental arrears.

Under the recommendations, if a landlord increases rent by more than 10% or the Consumer Price Index plus 5%, they must pay the tenant three times the fair market rent for relocation assistance, plus $1,411 in moving costs.

According to the city’s housing department, fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,747 and $2,222 for a two-bedroom. This would protect an additional 84,000 rental units in Los Angeles that were built after 2008.

The third proposed protection would allow tenants behind on rent to stay in their apartments for a month, unless they owe more than one month’s worth of fair market rent.

The council voted 12-0 in October to approve a package of recommendations from a council committee to sunset the renter protections.

Under the council action, landlords will be able to resume increasing rent on rent-controlled apartments, which account for three-quarters of the units in Los Angeles, beginning in February 2024.

Tenants who have missed payments since March 2020 will have to meet two repayment deadlines. Under state law, they have until Aug. 1, 2023, to pay back missed rent between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Under the city’s moratorium, tenants will have until Feb. 1, 2024, to repay rent accumulated from Oct. 1, 2021 to Feb. 1, 2023.

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