A Guide to Los Angeles Rent Control Laws

Los Angeles's Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) governs rent control for most multi-family rental units built before October 1978, aiming to limit rent increases and provide tenant protections. Key provisions include caps on rent hikes, just cause eviction requirements, and relocation assistance, ensuring stability and affordability in the rental market.

By
Gemma Smith
|
Last Updated
May 17, 2024
A Guide to Los Angeles Rent Control Laws

However, this influx of residents has led to rising housing and rental prices, prompting the state to implement measures to ensure housing remains affordable for its inhabitants. One such measure is the implementation of rent control policies, particularly in cities like Los Angeles, to stabilize the rental market and protect tenants from excessive rent hikes.

The Los Angeles City Council, as the local governing body, plays a pivotal role in this process. It enacts and oversees local rent control ordinances, demonstrating its commitment to addressing the city's housing affordability challenges.

The history of rent control in LA

The history of rent control in Los Angeles is intertwined with California's broader housing challenges. Key events and situations that led to the introduction and discussion of rent control include:

  • Post-WWII housing boom and shortages: After World War II, Los Angeles experienced a significant population increase, leading to a housing boom. Despite this, the supply struggled to keep pace with demand, setting the stage for future affordability issues.
  • 1970s housing crisis: By the 1970s, housing prices and rents in Los Angeles had surged, leading to increased tenant dissatisfaction and displacement. During this period, the sharp rise in rental costs heightened the call for rent control measures.
  • The Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO): Enacted as the city's rent control law in 1978, this is a testament to Los Angeles's commitment to housing affordability and tenant stability. It aims to limit rent increases and protect against arbitrary evictions, covering most multi-family rental units built before October 1, 1978.

Rent control: Core concepts

Rent control, a term often used in the context of housing, refers to regulations that govern how much landlords can increase rent on residential properties. These regulations aim to protect tenants from excessive rent hikes and stabilize the rental market.

The impact of rent control in Los Angeles extends to rent-controlled apartments and units, affecting housing costs, availability, and the administration of rent control laws, including debates on rent increases and tenant protections in rent-controlled environments.

Primary goals and objectives

The implementation of rent control in California, and specifically in Los Angeles, serves several key objectives:

  • Stabilizing rental costs: Rent control aims to limit the rate at which landlords can increase rent, preventing sudden and steep rent hikes that can displace tenants. By capping rent increases, rent control ensures housing remains affordable for long-term tenants.
  • Protecting tenants: Rent control laws provide additional protections for tenants beyond controlling rent increases. This includes requiring just cause for evictions and ensuring tenants cannot be arbitrarily removed from their homes, enhancing tenant security and stability.
  • Preventing displacement: In high-demand housing markets like Los Angeles, low-income and vulnerable residents are at risk of being displaced due to rising rents. Rent control helps mitigate this risk by keeping rental units affordable and reducing the likelihood of tenant displacement.
  • Promoting housing affordability: Rent control, by regulating rent increases, contributes to broader efforts to maintain housing affordability in cities experiencing housing crises. This is particularly important in urban areas where housing supply is limited and demand is high.
  • Supporting community stability: Stable housing contributes to overall community stability. When residents are not forced to move frequently due to unaffordable rent increases, neighborhoods can maintain their social fabric, and local economies can benefit from a more stable population.

Rent control is not just a policy, but a crucial tool in addressing the housing affordability crisis in Los Angeles. It provides a safety net, ensuring tenants remain in their homes without facing untenable rent increases. This contributes to a more stable and equitable housing market, offering a sense of security and stability to both tenants and landlords.

LA's rent control legislation

The primary legislation governing rent control in Los Angeles is the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), overseen by the Los Angeles City Council. Enacted in 1978, the RSO is a comprehensive set of regulations that aim to regulate rent increases, provide tenant protections, and ensure affordable housing for residents of Los Angeles.

Coordination between Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles City Council is crucial in managing rent control, ensuring that policies are harmonized across the region.

This ordinance applies to most multi-family rental units built before October 1, 1978, excluding single-family homes and condominiums. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has also issued temporary caps on rent increases for these rental units.

The ordinance includes several critical provisions designed to protect tenants and regulate the rental market:

1. Caps on rent increases

For 2024, the RSO caps annual rent increases at 4% for units where the landlord pays utilities and 6% for units where tenants pay utilities. These caps are reviewed and adjusted annually based on inflation and other economic factors.

Additionally, fair market rent is considered when determining allowable rent increases for units under the RSO, ensuring that tenants paying 80% or less of the area's fair market rent are protected from excessive annual rent hikes.

2. Intervals for rent hikes

Landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months for units covered by the RSO. Proper notice must be given to tenants before implementing any rent increase, typically at least 30 days in advance.

3. Eviction criteria

The RSO requires landlords to have just cause for evicting tenants. Acceptable reasons include non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, or the need for the landlord to occupy the unit.

No-fault evictions, such as those for major renovations or the owner's personal use, often require landlords to provide relocation assistance to displaced tenants. These are situations where the tenant is not at fault for the eviction, but the landlord has a legitimate reason for needing the unit vacant.

4. Tenant relocation assistance

Landowners must pay relocation assistance if tenants are forced to move out due to no-fault evictions. Additionally, tenant relocation assistance is mandated in scenarios where tenants receive a rent increase of more than 10% within a 12-month period and cannot afford the new rent.

This financial support aims to aid tenants in finding a new place to live if they decide to move out due to the rent hike or in case of at-fault evictions. The legal framework ensures that landlords provide tenant relocation assistance, especially in certain eviction situations, reflecting a commitment to protecting tenant rights. The amount of assistance varies based on tenant income, age, and length of tenancy.

5. Maintenance and habitability

Landlords are obligated to maintain rental units in habitable condition. Failure to do so can result in tenant penalties and rent reductions until repairs are made.

6. Registration and Compliance

Landlords must register their rental units with the Los Angeles Housing Department and comply with all reporting requirements. Non-compliance with the RSO can result in fines and other penalties, including monetary fines, legal action, and even the revocation of the landlord's right to rent out the property. The severity of the penalty depends on the nature and extent of the non-compliance.

These provisions ensure that rent control in Los Angeles limits rent increases and offers robust protections for tenants, promoting stability and affordability in the housing market.

LA rent control exemptions

Several types of properties, including residential rental units, are exempt from rent control under the RSO in Los Angeles, covering:

  • Luxury housing units: Properties that obtained a Luxury Exemption Certificate from the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) before 1978 if the rent charged in 1978 exceeded certain thresholds based on the number of bedrooms.
  • Single-family homes and condominiums: These properties are exempt if not owned by a real estate investment trust (REIT), corporation, or LLC.
  • Owner-occupied duplexes: Duplexes where the owner occupies one of the units are exempt.
  • Newly constructed properties: Properties that have received a certificate of occupancy within the last 15 years are exempt.
  • Affordable housing units: Properties subject to specific affordability restrictions and regulations are exempt.
  • Student housing: Housing provided by universities, colleges, or affiliated nonprofit organizations is exempt.
  • Short-term rentals: Properties offered for 14 days or less per calendar year are exempt.
  • Government-subsidized housing: Housing with rent increase restrictions imposed by a government agency is exempt.
  • Employer-provided housing: Housing provided by an employer to an employee as a condition of employment is exempt.

Landlords of exempt properties must provide tenants with a notice of exemption from rent control laws such as the Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482). Local rent control laws in Los Angeles generally limit annual rent increases to around 8% for covered rental units.

Understanding rent control in Los Angeles

Los Angeles rent control laws are critical to California’s efforts to manage its housing affordability crisis. The Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) of 1978 is the cornerstone of these laws, designed to stabilize rental costs, protect tenants, and support community stability in the city characterized by diverse opportunities and a rapidly growing population.

The RSO and other rent control measures in Los Angeles have evolved in response to historical housing challenges, from the post-WWII housing boom to the 1970s housing crisis, reflecting a continuous effort to balance the needs of tenants and landlords.

The legislation’s core concepts include limiting rent increases, ensuring just cause for evictions, and mandating relocation assistance, all of which contribute to tenant security and affordability.

While rent control covers a significant portion of the rental market, there are notable exemptions, including luxury units with specific certificates, newly constructed properties, owner-occupied duplexes, and more. These exemptions require landlords to provide clear notices to tenants, maintaining transparency and compliance with broader state regulations like the Tenant Protection Act.

Landlords and tenants can navigate the rental market more effectively by understanding the history, objectives, and detailed rent control provisions in the City of Los Angeles. Rent control remains vital in promoting a stable and equitable housing environment, ensuring that Los Angeles continues to be a livable city for all its residents amidst ongoing economic and demographic shifts.

Los Angeles rent control laws FAQs

Does Los Angeles still have rent control?

Los Angeles still has rent control, primarily governed by the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). The RSO applies to most multi-family rental units built and occupied before October 1, 1978, and it includes various provisions to limit rent increases, ensure tenant protections, and provide stability in the rental market.

Can a landlord raise rent by 10% in Los Angeles?

Under the RSO, a landlord cannot raise rent by 10% for units covered by rent control in a single year. For 2024, the allowable rent increase is capped at 4% for units where the landlord pays utilities and 6% for units where tenants pay utilities. For units not covered by the RSO but subject to California's statewide rent control law (AB 1482), the annual rent increase is capped at 5% plus inflation, up to a maximum of 10%.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Gemma Smith

With 7 years in property management, Gemma serves as a key content strategist at Azibo.com. While excelling in writing, editing, and SEO, she also enhances Azibo's social media presence. Passionately, Gemma educates others to make informed real estate investment decisions in the ever-changing market.

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