It's Now Illegal For LA Landlords To Deny Housing Vouchers — But Some Still Are

An apartment for rent in Central Los Angeles. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

The new year brought a crop of new housing laws affecting Southern Californians, including state and local laws that ban landlords from turning away tenants simply because they're using a government-subsidized housing voucher.

But a quick search on Craigslist turns up a couple hundred apartment listings in Los Angeles that still use phrases like "No Section 8," a reference to the federal rental assistance program.

"That's definitely a violation of this law," said Sasha Harnden, a housing policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. He advocated for the passage of the statewide voucher anti-discrimination law, SB-329, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

"Any advertisements that are still out there that say 'No Section 8' or 'No Housing Assistance' are a pretty clear violation of this new protection," he said.

WHO'S GOING TO ENFORCE?

Local governments now face the challenge of enforcing the new rules. The city of Los Angeles has contracted with the nonprofit Housing Rights Center to enforce anti-voucher discrimination laws locally. Executive director Chancela Al-Mansour said, for now, her organization is focused on educating landlords who may not be aware of the new law.

But the organization could pursue litigation and help file formal complaints with the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing if landlords continue to flout the law.

"They will be held accountable legally in the future if they do continue to ignore the law and intentionally discourage Section 8 applicants," Al-Mansour said.

LANDLORDS 'NEED TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES'

Groups representing property owners are now also trying to inform their members about compliance.

Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said landlords tend to deny Section 8 in L.A. because they find dealing with the city's bureaucracy frustrating and costly. Nevertheless, he said it's now on landlords to comply with the law.

"They need to educate themselves," Yukelson said. "Otherwise they're going to get into trouble and that trouble could end up being very costly to them."

According to the city's Housing Authority, nearly half of the people getting Section 8 in Los Angeles end up having to forfeit their vouchers because they can't find anyone who will rent to them. Housing advocates hope to see more voucher holders secure housing this year as a result of the new laws.