Supes amend tenants’ protections, Barger votes ‘no’

Los Angeles County Seal.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 recently to approve two items related to tenant protections, but Supervisor Kathryn Barger was the lone “no” vote, citing what she described as an unfair burden placed on mom-and-pop property owners. 

The Board of Supervisors approved updates to the county’s COVID-19 tenant protections resolution to clarify the definition of “financial impacts,” affirmative defense and penalties provisions. In addition, the board approved a rent increase cap in the unincorporated areas of the county at 3% for fully covered rental units and at 5% for luxury units.  

“Emergency tenant protections have been in place for about three years,” Barger wrote in a prepared statement. “My ‘no’ vote reflects my belief that mom-and-pop property owners are being unfairly burdened. It’s a mistake to pass a one-size-fits-all policy that protects tenants who refuse to pay any portion of their rent or work with their landlord.” 

The motion, authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, District 3 and District 1, extended the no-fault protections as a baseline for tenants across the county — for tenants who utilized the county’s nonpayment of rent protections in 2022, and are within the 12-month repayment window.  

In addition, the motion clarifies “financial impacts,” which describes how a tenant may qualify for tenant protections. According to the agenda, “financial impacts” is a “substantial loss” of household income of at least 10% of a tenant’s monthly household income.  

Tenants must also show evidence by pay stubs, letters from employers or other methods, and the update also includes a portion for “increased costs.” This portion reflects a tenant’s increased cost in food, fuel, child care, and/or reimbursed medical expenses in an amount greater than 7.5% of a tenant’s monthly household income.  

The item also clarified that protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent is only allowed for tenants who have an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer action. This would include a provision to clarify that a landlord is not criminally or civilly liable for pursing and filing an unlawful detainer action, if the landlord has a reasonable belief that the tenant’s self-certification is fraudulent, according to the agenda. 

“The COVID-19 emergency and shutdown of the county’s economy was the reason our board initially took action, but the pandemic and Public Health orders are no longer affecting people’s ability to work,” according to Barger. 

Lastly, the Board of Supervisors voted to amend a rent increase in the unincorporated areas of the county from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2023. The county approved a cap on the maximum allowable annual rent increase for fully covered rental units at 3% and luxury units at 5%. 

The county modified the term “for cause” to “at-fault” termination, which would require landlords to file an unlawful detainer action only if the tenant’s rental debt exceeds one month of fair market rent dependent of their rental unit size.  

The purpose of these changes to county policy was to further clarify the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenants, while also providing support for tenants “deeply” impacted by the pandemic. 

“We are also overreaching by implementing a 3% rent increase cap for unincorporated areas under the county’s rent stabilization ordinance and establishing no-fault eviction protections in incorporated cities. I disagree with the continued use of the county’s police powers, which should be reserved for dire emergencies. We are well past that point,” Barger’s statement said. 

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