LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles City Council committee voted Monday to have the City Attorney's Office review a proposal to establish laws that would protect residential tenants from being harassed by their landlords.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles has halted no-fault evictions people will not have to pay rent until the Safer at Home orders are lifted.
Since rent will be due eventually, city leaders have been trying to find ways to subsidize rent and other methods to keep people in their homes.
Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the council's Housing Committee, said there are "outlier" landlords who have been trying to push out tenants who cannot pay their rent.
"We're not talking about a community in general. We're talking more specifically about the outliers," Cedillo said, adding that he's also spoken with landlord associations in addition to tenant protection groups.
"Nonetheless, we must write legislation that addresses those concerns. We would prefer to have a more robust proposal ... so that these matters can be addressed promptly and quickly."
Cedillo directed that the proposal be sent to the City Attorney'sOffice to review what the council can put in place without violating state or federal laws and to review the size of the proposed fines that could be levied against landlords if they violate the provisions of the tenant anti-harassment laws.
As envisioned, the maximum fines would be increased from $1,000 to$10,000 with added penalties of up to $5,000 under the city's rent stabilization ordinance.
Cedillo also said he wants more specificity in the recommendations regarding enforcement of the laws, as well as ways for the city to be flexible with each situation.
According to a report from the city's Housing and Community Investment Department, a "minority of unscrupulous landlords are reported to employ coercive tactics such as reducing housing services, issuing eviction notices based on false grounds, threatening to contact immigration authorities or refusing to conduct repairs required by law in order to induce tenants to vacate their RSO housing, subsequently allowing landlords to raise rents to market rate."
"Often, these activities are conducted by new owners of longtime rent-stabilized properties interested in profiting in a tight, expensive real estate market," the report stated.
"In response to similar trends statewide, several jurisdictions such as San Francisco, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood have adopted tenant anti-harassment statutes."
A coalition of organizations that advocate on behalf of residential tenants held a protest this morning in front of City Hall demanding that the council adopt anti-harassment policies.
On social media, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment posted videos and testimony from residential tenants who claim they've experienced harassment from their landlords.
A woman identified as Lilia Miranda said of her landlord, "She demands I pay rent and insults me at every opportunity. I explain that I can't pay, but she won't listen. Please, (Gil Cedillo), protect us renters because I and other tenants are suffering!"
It was not immediately clear whether the proposal will be heard again by the committee or if it will be sent to the full City Council after the city attorney's review.