City of Los Angeles Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance
The City Council of Los Angeles passed the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance in January 2023. This ordinance extends eviction protections to most rental units in the city that are not already regulated by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), which controls rent increases and valid reasons for evictions for some rental units within the city. The primary aim of the just cause ordinance is to provide city-wide eviction protections to renters. Effective January 27, 2023, the just cause ordinance, together with units already covered by the RSO, ensures that almost all rental units in Los Angeles have just cause eviction protections. Under the new ordinance, landlords cannot use a “no cause” notice to end a month-to-month tenancy under state law, and they cannot terminate a tenancy due to the lease’s expiration unless a “just cause” exists. This article offers an overview of Los Angeles’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance.
If a tenant decides to vacate the unit due to a rent increase exceeding a specific limit, landlords are required by this ordinance to provide relocation assistance.
The ordinance applies to all rental units in the City of Los Angeles unless they fall under specific exceptions. Generally, single-family homes and multi-unit buildings built after 1978 are subject to the ordinance, while most other units in the city are subject to the RSO’s just cause eviction requirements.
Categories of Rental Units Exempt from the City of Los Angeles Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance
- Rent Stabilized Ordinance (RSO) Units
- Transient Occupancy Units
- Hospital, Adult Care and Religious Institutions
- Owner-occupied units
- Stock and limited equity cooperatives
- Interim Motel Housing Projects
- Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities
- Housing Accommodations for the Homeless
- Legally Mandated Exempt Housing
The ordinance’s protections take effect either upon the expiration of an initial lease or after six months of lawful and continuous occupancy, whichever comes first. For example, if a tenant signed an initial lease of three months, the protections would become effective upon the lease’s expiration. However, if the tenant signed an initial lease of one year, the protections would become effective after six months of occupancy, even if the lease hadn’t yet expired.
The ordinance does not specifically address how this requirement applies to month-to-month tenancies, leaving room for various interpretations. Until the City clarifies the ordinance or a court rules on the correct interpretation, it is recommended that landlords assume the just cause protections are applicable from the start of a month-to-month tenancy.
Landlords should treat any tenancy that has lasted for over six months or after the initial lease’s expiration (whichever occurred first) as protected by the ordinance since the requirement is not explicitly limited to tenancies that commenced on or after the ordinance’s effective date.
Providing Notice of the Ordinance
The ordinance mandates that landlords provide tenants with a notice of the ordinance’s protections in two ways. Firstly, for any tenancy that begins or renews on or after January 27, 2023 (the effective date of the ordinance), landlords must provide tenants with a written notice about the ordinance.
Additionally, the ordinance mandates that landlords post the notice in an easily accessible common area of the property. However, the ordinance lacks any specific details on how this requirement applies to properties without an accessible common area, such as single-family homes or duplexes, or situations where the common area is not under the landlord’s control, such as a condominium unit. In these cases, it is recommended that landlords post the notice in one or more prominent locations on the property to ensure that every tenant can clearly see at least one copy of the notice.
Allowed Reasons for Eviction
Nonpayment of rent
Starting March 27, 2023, if a tenant defaults on rent payment, the ordinance imposes a “minimum debt threshold” that landlords must meet before initiating an eviction. Specifically, landlords cannot evict tenants for non-payment of rent until the tenant’s total rental debt equals at least one month of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fair market rent for that particular apartment type. This amount is determined annually and based on the number of bedrooms in the apartment. The current HUD fair market rent rates can be found on the HUD website2. For 2023, the minimum debt threshold amounts are as follows:
2023 Minimum Debt Threshold
|Studio||1 Br||2 Br||3 Br||4 Br|
In compliance with the ordinance, eviction notices for non-payment of rent must include the number of bedrooms in the unit.
Except for the following violations, which cannot be grounds for eviction, if the tenant has received written notice from the landlord regarding a violation of a lawful obligation or covenant of the tenancy and has failed to remedy the violation, the tenant may be evicted.
- This provision prohibits the landlord from evicting the tenant for failing to surrender possession upon proper notice. Specifically, the landlord cannot use a clause in the lease that mandates the tenant to vacate after receiving a 30 or 60 day “no cause” termination notice. Additionally, the landlord cannot force the tenant to move out solely because their lease has expired.
- If the violation of an occupancy limitation involves an additional occupant who is either a dependent child or an adult, then it may not be grounds for eviction. However, the landlord may still have the right to approve or disapprove of any prospective additional adult residents, as long as such approval is not unreasonably withheld. It should be noted that the ordinance does not provide a clear definition of what would be considered “unreasonable” in this context.
- A violation of a provision unilaterally added by the landlord may not be used as grounds for eviction unless the tenant has agreed to the changes in writing. Landlords are not allowed to change the terms of tenancy without tenant consent and then evict the tenant for violating those changed terms. For instance, if a landlord wants to implement a no-smoking policy, they cannot enforce it against a long-term resident unless the resident agrees to a lease amendment that prohibits smoking. However, tenant consent is not necessary if the change in terms is authorized by the Los Angeles Municipal Code that provides for automatic rent increases or if the landlord is required by federal, state, or local law to make such changes.
- If a resident had a pet before a change of terms to prohibit pets, then a violation of this provision cannot be used as grounds for eviction unless the landlord can prove that the pet has caused a nuisance and the nuisance has not been addressed despite proper notice given to the resident.
Nuisance or Damage
The tenant may be evicted if they engage in or allow nuisance activity, cause damage to the rental unit or the common areas of the complex, or unreasonably interfere with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of other tenants within a 1,000 foot radius from the boundary of the rental complex.
If a tenant uses a rental unit or common areas for an illegal purpose, they may be subject to eviction. However, a tenant cannot be evicted for using a rental unit for an unlawful purpose solely due to the absence of a certificate of occupancy or past violations of occupancy or other housing code regulations.
Failure to renew similar rental agreement
A tenant may face eviction if they use a rental unit or common areas for illegal purposes. However, it is not permissible to evict a tenant for using a rental unit unlawfully only because the unit does not have a certificate of occupancy or has been previously cited for occupancy or housing code violations.
Failure to provide access
If a tenant refuses to allow the landlord reasonable access to the rental unit for repairs, improvements, inspections as permitted or required by the lease or law, or for showing the rental unit to prospective purchasers or mortgagees, they may be subject to eviction.
If a subtenant not approved by the landlord is in possession at the end of a lease term, they are considered the person in possession.
Owner move in
When a landlord seeks in good faith to regain possession of a rental unit for their own primary residence, the residence of an eligible family member, or for a resident manager, it is considered an owner move-in eviction. This basis for terminating the tenancy is subject to several limitations and special procedures that are explained in the section titled “Owner Move-In Evictions.”
Demolish or remodel
If a landlord seeks in good faith to regain possession of a rental unit for the purpose of demolishing or substantially remodeling it, they must have obtained the necessary permits from government agencies for the remodeling work. The landlord must also provide the tenant with a written termination notice that includes a copy of the permits, the reason for termination, and the scope of work to be performed. The notice must also explain why the work cannot be done safely with the tenant in place and why the tenant must vacate the property for at least 30 days. The landlord is required to provide relocation assistance in such cases.
Withdraw from rental market
If a landlord seeks to withdraw the entire rental property (which includes all rental units on the same land parcel) from the rental market, they may seek to recover possession of a rental unit in good faith. However, relocation assistance is required.
If the landlord seeks to recover possession in good faith to comply with a court or government agency’s order to vacate, comply, abate, or any other order that requires the tenant to vacate the rental unit, a relocation assistance payment is required.
Federal government owner sale
If the property is owned by the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they may recover possession to vacate the property before its sale. This requires the payment of relocation assistance.
Residential hotel conversion
If the landlord owns a residential hotel and wants to demolish or convert the building to another use and has obtained approval from the Department for Clearance, they may seek to recover possession. In such cases, relocation assistance payment is required.
Conversion to affordable housing
If a landlord seeks to recover possession of a rental unit in good faith to convert the property into affordable housing under an Affordable Housing Accommodation Exemption issued by the Department, they must offer the units first to the displaced resident(s) if the resident(s) expressed in writing within 30 days of displacement their desire to consider an offer to renew tenancy and provided an address. The displaced resident has thirty days to accept the landlord’s offer to re-rent the unit. If the landlord fails to record a government-imposed regulatory agreement within 6 months of the original filing of the Accommodation Exemption and seeks to offer the units for rent, relocation assistance payments are required.
Conversion to non-residential use
If the landlord intends to convert the residential real property to non-residential use, they may seek to recover possession. In such cases, the landlord must provide relocation assistance payments to the affected tenants.
Each of the reasons for eviction listed above (H-O) based on no-fault grounds requires the landlord to submit a declaration of intent to evict to the Housing Department on a form provided by the city and serve it to the tenant. The Housing Department has prepared similar forms for landlords to use in RSO-covered units for no-fault evictions. However, it is unclear whether the same forms will be used for no-fault evictions under the ordinance, or if new forms will be created. Landlords who have questions about the proper forms to use should contact the city for clarification.
Owner Move ins
A landlord, who is a natural person and has legal title to at least 25% of the property containing the unit, may terminate a tenancy if they seek in good faith to recover possession of a unit for their primary residence for a period of at least 2 consecutive years. Similarly, if the landlord possesses legal title to at least 50% of the property containing the unit, they may recover possession of a rental unit for an eligible family member (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild) for a minimum of 2 consecutive years. It is important to note that a landlord can only recover possession of a unit for occupancy by themself or their eligible family member(s) once for that person in each rental complex that the landlord owns.
Furthermore, a rental unit can be recovered by a landlord for a resident manager to reside in as their primary residence for a minimum of 2 consecutive years if the law or an affordable housing covenant or regulatory agreement mandates the presence of a residential manager, janitor, housekeeper, caretaker, or other responsible individual. Although the ordinance does not explicitly specify that the property must be owned by a natural person to recover possession of a unit for a resident manager, the current regulations established by the LA Rent Adjustment Commission do require such ownership (refer to RAC Regulation 621.04). There are no ownership percentage requirements when evicting a tenant for resident manager occupancy.
The rental unit must be intended for occupancy by the resident manager, owner, or eligible family member in good faith within three months after the current tenant vacates the unit.
If a comparable vacant unit is available in the same property, a landlord is prohibited from evicting a tenant for the purpose of occupancy by an owner, family member, or resident manager, except in cases where the resident manager is being replaced by another resident manager. However, this rule does not apply if the tenant is a protected tenant, defined as someone who is 62 years of age or older, disabled, or terminally ill as certified by a licensed physician. Additionally, the landlord can only recover possession from the most recent resident (other than a protected tenant) who occupied a unit with the same number of bedrooms needed by the landlord. An exception to this rule is if a different unit is required for medical reasons, as certified by a licensed physician in California.
When landlords seek to terminate a tenancy for the purpose of moving in themselves or having a qualified family member move in, they must submit a “Declaration of Intent to Evict for Landlord Occupancy” form to the Department. Similarly, if they seek to terminate a tenancy for the purpose of having a resident manager move in, they must submit a “Declaration of Intent to Evict for Resident Manager” form to the Department. These forms must be submitted to the Department by the same date that the termination notice is given to the resident, and copies of the forms must be served to the resident either before or at the same time as the termination notice.
The landlord is required to file a “Declaration for Occupancy” within three months of the resident vacating the unit, confirming the occupancy of the unit by the landlord, family member, or resident manager. The landlord must also file this declaration within 30 days of the first and second anniversary of the resident vacating the unit, certifying the occupancy of the unit by the landlord, family member, or resident manager, or providing an explanation for why the unit is not occupied by that person.
Before re-renting a unit, the landlord must submit a “Notice of Intention to Re-Rent Rental Unit” to the Department. If the landlord plans to offer the unit for rent within two years of the resident vacating the unit, the landlord must first offer to rent the unit to the displaced resident. The resident must have provided the landlord with a contact address within 30 days of their displacement and expressed their interest in renewing their tenancy in the unit. The displaced resident has 30 days to accept the landlord’s offer to re-rent.
The landlord is obligated to provide relocation assistance to the displaced resident. However, in certain situations, a “mom and pop” landlord may be eligible to pay a lower amount of relocation assistance. Please refer to Section VI below for further details regarding relocation assistance.
Aside from other penalties for violating the ordinance discussed in Section VII, a landlord who terminates a tenancy in bad faith so they or their qualified family member can move in may be liable to the displaced tenant for three times the amount of actual damages, exemplary damages, equitable relief, and attorney’s fees. Failure to occupy the rental unit as a primary residence within three months after the existing tenant vacates or for a period of two consecutive years may serve as evidence of bad faith. The City can pursue equitable relief and exemplary damages for displacement of tenants. Moreover, failure to file the necessary declarations and notices with the City as described above can result in a fine of $250 per day for each day the declaration or notice is overdue.
Relocation Assistance for No Fault Evictions
Relocation assistance is mandatory in cases of “no-fault” eviction, as outlined in bullet points H through O above.6 The amount of relocation assistance is determined per unit, not per tenant, and depends on various factors, including the length of tenancy, the type of property, the type of owner, and the specific reason for eviction. There are eleven possible relocation assistance amounts, with higher payments generally granted to qualified and low-income tenants, as well as those who have resided in the unit for three years or more, subject to certain exceptions.
A tenant is considered “qualified” if, on the date of receiving a written notice of termination, they meet any of the following criteria: (1) they are 62 years of age or older, (2) they are handicapped as defined in section 50072 of the Health and Safety Code or are disabled for federal disability insurance benefits, or (3) they have one or more minor dependent children living with them as defined for federal income tax purposes.
A tenant is considered a “low income tenant” if their income is equal to or less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) adjusted for household size, regardless of how long they have been a tenant. To claim increased relocation assistance due to being low income, tenants must submit a statement to the Department verifying their income using a form provided by the Department. The income thresholds for determining eligibility can be found on the city’s website under the “Relocation Assistance” link, listed as the “HUD Low Income Limits for Los Angeles.”
If the tenancy is terminated for owner or eligible owner-relative move-in (as explained above), a landlord may be entitled to pay reduced relocation assistance, subject to certain conditions. The reduced amount will only apply if all of the following conditions are met:
- The eviction was for a landlord or qualified family member (not a resident manager) and, if for a qualified family member, the qualified family member does not own any residential property in the City of Los Angeles.
- The landlord has not paid reduced relocation assistance in the past three years.
- The subject property has four or fewer rental units.
- The landlord owns no more than four residential properties, including a single-family home on a separate lot, in the City of Los Angeles.
If the tenant is renting a single-family dwelling, the required relocation assistance may be reduced if the following conditions are met:
- The rental property is a single-family home,
- The owner is an individual or a trust/entity controlled by an individual,
- The owner, as well as all trusts or registered legal entities controlled by the individual who controls the trust or entity, own no more than 4 additional units in the city, and
- None of the 4 additional units are located on the same lot as the single-family home.
If the reason for terminating a tenancy is either to convert the property into an affordable housing accommodation or because the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owns the property and is seeking to recover possession before sale (as discussed in bullet points L and N in Section IV above), a higher amount of relocation assistance may apply if required by the Uniform Relocation Act or California Relocation Assistance Act. However, due to the limited application of these reasons and the complex rules that apply to such cases, a full discussion of these relocation assistance requirements is outside the scope of this Industry Insight.
If a landlord is evicting a resident manager to replace them with another resident manager who will occupy the same unit, they are exempt from paying relocation assistance. Additionally, landlords are exempt from paying relocation assistance if they are required to evict tenants due to circumstances beyond their control, such as a fire, flood, earthquake, or other such events, provided that the landlord did not cause or contribute to the condition leading to the eviction.
Relocation Assistance Amounts
For the period of July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, the relocation assistance amount ranges from $9,200 (for non-qualified tenants who have lived in the unit for less than three years) to $22,950 (for qualified tenants who have lived in their unit for three years or more and low-income tenants who are also qualified, regardless of their length of tenancy). In case of “mom and pop” owner or eligible-relative move-ins, a reduced amount of either $8,850 (for non-qualified tenants) or $17,850 (for qualified tenants) is applicable, and these amounts remain the same irrespective of the tenant’s duration of tenancy.
Regardless of the length of tenancy or “qualified” status, a reduced amount of one month’s rent, calculated at the rental amount paid by the tenant at the time of the termination notice, applies to “mom and pop” owners of a single-family dwelling. The City establishes the amount of required relocation assistance payments each year and states it in the notice prepared by the City, as discussed in Section III. The relocation assistance amounts that apply through June 30, 2023, are as follows:
|Relocation Assistance Amounts|
|Standard Relocation Amounts||Special Circumstance Rel. Amounts|
|TenantType||Less than 3 years||3 or More years||Low income||Mom % pop owner||Mom & pop owner of single family dwelling||Conversions to affordable housing|
|QualifiedTenant||$19,400||$22,950||$22,950||$17,850||One month’s rent||Amount varies|
City Admin Fee
In case of eviction grounds mentioned in bullet points H-L and O in Section IV, landlords must pay a fee to the city for providing relocation assistance by the City’s Relocation Assistance Service Provider, as defined in Los Angeles Municipal Code Sections 47.06.B. and 47.07.B. Currently, the fee is $840 per unit occupied by a qualified tenant and $522 per unit occupied by other tenants, plus an additional $72 per unit for administrative costs. The only exception to these fees is when the reduced relocation assistance amount for “mom and pop” owners of a single-family dwelling applies.
Relocation Assistance Payment
Landlords must provide the relocation assistance amount to the tenant within 15 days of serving the written notice to terminate the tenancy. Alternatively, landlords may choose to pay through a relocation escrow account. In such cases, the relocation amount will be disbursed to the tenant upon certification of the vacation of the unit. For more information on relocation escrow accounts, please refer to the Department’s regulations.
In cases where there are multiple tenants occupying a unit, each tenant should receive an equal pro-rata share of the fee. If there are multiple fee payment amounts applicable to a unit, the landlord must pay the higher amount. Landlords are allowed to subtract any rental debt that a resident owes from the relocation assistance owed, except if a governmental agency order mandates eviction or compliance for an unpermitted dwelling.
Filed under: City of Los Angeles