CES Testifies in Support of Tenant Protection Buyout Program Proposal
In response the growing tactic of unscrupulous landlords attempting to coerce tenants living in rent controlled units to move by offering them “cash for keys,” the Los Angeles City Council Housing Committee considered a Tenant Protection Buyout Program proposal on August 17, 2016.
The Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA) presented their proposal to amend the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to prevent tenants from entering into buyout agreements without a full understanding of their rights. The proposal is based on a similar program adopted by the City of Santa Monica.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) and tenants currently facing landlord pressure to sign buyout agreements testified in support of the buyout proposal.
Landlords are using these buyouts to get tenants out without having to go through the Ellis Act Eviction Process or filing a Tenant Habitability Plan, two programs that protect tenants against abuse. By avoiding these processes landlords can obtain higher rents without paying correct relocation amounts, providing tenants the legal amount of time to move, providing tenants temporary relocation housing while the building is being renovated, being limited in raising rents and being prohibited from re-renting the units for 5 years, depending on what their intentions are for the property.
CES Director of Organizing Carlos Aguilar told the Committee, “While Ellis Act evictions spread throughout the city, we have seen an additional trend that greatly concerns us. Landlords are even bolder using more illegal tactics and offering cash for keys to get tenants out.”
Aguilar also said, For the most part, low income, immigrants and non-English speaking tenants are targeted for the lower illegal amounts. Many tenants don’t know they rights and believe they have no choice but taking the money and leaving.”
LA City Council Member David Ryu in a letter to the Committee stated, “The Rent Stabilization Ordinance was created to protect residents from excessive rent increases and limit reason for evictions. Yet, landlords will often offer “voluntary” buyout agreements to avoid these protections and skirt the law. As the real estate market has recovered, developers have been taking advantage of these “cash for keys” buyout tactics more frequently.”
The proposal would do the following:
- Create a definition for a Buyout Agreement and Buyout Offer.
- Require that landlords provide tenants with a written disclosure notice of the tenant’s rights under the RSO with regard to eviction and relocation assistance, including contact information for the HCIDLA landlord/tenant hotline.
- Allow tenants to rescind buyout agreements for any reason for up to 30 days after the agreements are fully executed.
- Further provide that the tenant may rescind agreements that do not satisfy the stipulated requirements at any time.
- Require that landlords file copies of all buyout agreements with HCIDLA’s Rent Stabilization Division.
- Provide tenants with an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer and a civil remedy for actual damages and civil penalties against landlords who fail to comply with the buyout agreement regulations.
The Housing Committee adopted the proposal and moved it to the full City Council for approval.