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Housing & Homelessness

Tenants get help as L.A. freezes rent hikes for thousands of apartments over coronavirus

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday that landlords would not be allowed to increase the rent for hundreds of thousands of apartments in the city, in his latest effort to ease the financial hardship on Angelenos from the coronavirus outbreak.

“Rent will stay the same,” the mayor said during a briefing on Monday afternoon. “This is a common sense action on top of the eviction moratorium that will help folks stay in their homes and make ends meet.”

The announcement covers about 624,000 apartments that fall under the city’s rent stabilization program, according to city statistics. Normally, that program allows owners of apartment buildings built on or before October 1978 to increase rents by about 3% or 4% every year. Single-family rentals and most newer apartments, neither of which are subject to rent control under state law, will remain unaffected by Garcetti’s executive order.

The freeze on rent increases covers the vast majority of apartments in L.A. and will last until the city’s state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Garcetti said. Any rent increases planned for April 1 at apartments covered by the order are void, a Garcetti spokesman confirmed.

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The mayor’s action adds yet another layer of protection for tenants, many of whom have rent due on Wednesday.

On Friday, the L.A. City Council approved a temporary ban on evictions for renters who are unable to pay rent because of the virus. The council also waived late fees and allowed renters to make up late payments for up to a year after the expiration of the emergency order. Council members, however, rejected a blanket ban on all evictions during the pandemic, and all back rent must still be paid.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice and several other Westside neighborhoods and had been pushing for a halt on rent hikes, said he was thrilled by the mayor’s decision.

“This is a big and important and necessary step to prevent people from winding up on the streets,” he said.

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Bonin said he and Councilman David Ryu would continue to press Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Trump administration for a more complete stoppage on rent increases, a suspension of rent and mortgage payments and other relief measures for tenants and homeowners.

Garcetti’s decision troubled Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles. He was concerned that landlords who were counting on rent increases to pay their mortgages, property taxes and other bills now had to forgo that revenue.

City leaders “are just forcing this entire burden on rental property owners,” Yukelson said. “They’re going to put a lot of owners out of business. There are many owners that live month to month and depend on these rent checks to survive.”

Some tenant advocates said the mayor’s action will be helpful, but still wasn’t enough to ensure that renters are protected from evictions in the future, as they continue to grapple with the economic ripples of the pandemic.

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“It’s great that tenants won’t receive a rent increase,” said Trinidad Ruiz, an organizer with Los Angeles Tenants Union, one of several groups that protested outside Garcetti’s home Sunday afternoon. “But that won’t protect them as soon as this eviction pause is lifted.”


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