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Housing and Homelessness

One Month Late On Rent? In LA County, You May Soon Be Protected From Eviction

A large banner advertising open apartments that reads "now leasing" and has a phone number underneath hangs on the outside of an apartment building in L.A.'s Koreatown neighborhood.
(Chava Sanchez
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to advance a proposal that would allow tenants in many parts of the county to fall behind on about a month’s worth of rent without facing eviction.

If ultimately approved in a final vote expected in coming weeks, the new eviction protection for tenants late on their rent would be the first of its kind in the Los Angeles area.

“We want people who owe, like, a third of one month’s rent not to be kicked out,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the proposal with Supervisor Hilda Solis.

Four out of five supervisors voted to advance the proposal, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger casting the lone dissenting vote.

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During the pandemic, L.A. County enacted temporary eviction protections for tenants who couldn't pay rent due to the economic harms of COVID-19. But those provisions are set to expire after Dec. 31. Under normal rules, renters can face eviction within days of falling short.

“Within a single week, the rent could become due, a tenant could miss their payment and they could have an eviction filed against them in court,” said Sasha Harnden, a public policy advocate with the Inner City Law Center.

Harnden said the new threshold for non-payment of rent evictions would give tenants time to catch up before losing their housing — a safeguard advocates hope will ease stress and prevent more people from becoming homeless.

Laid-off workers would have a few more weeks to obtain unemployment benefits (a process that was painfully slow for many Californians during the pandemic). Those home sick with COVID-19 would have some extra time to get back to work and earn enough to make rent.

“The eviction process moves at such a breakneck speed that it really doesn't allow for even the social safety nets — that we've set up to catch people when they fall — to play out and actually have their intended effect,” Harnden said.

Late Rent Protection Would Only Cover Parts of L.A. County

The proposal forwarded by the supervisors would only apply to renters in unincorporated parts of L.A. County, such as East Los Angeles, Altadena and Florence-Graham in South L.A. Unincorporated areas are home to about 1 million residents. (You can check if you live in an unincorporated area of the county here.)

Under the proposal, tenants would be protected from eviction if they owe less than one month of “fair market rent” in the L.A. metro area, a figure established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under that federal definition, one month of fair market rent for a studio apartment in the L.A. area comes out to $1,534 in fiscal year 2023. For a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $2,222.

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Though unique in L.A. County, the proposed policy would not be wholly unprecedented. In Washington, D.C. landlords cannot evict tenants who are less than $600 behind on rent.

In some ways, the policy would make permanent one of the key temporary protections that has existed across L.A. County for much of the past two and a half years.

During the pandemic, tens of thousands of tenants in L.A. County have been protected from eviction for not paying rent due to economic hardships tied to COVID-19. But the county’s COVID-19 rules have been temporary. The new proposal would permanently continue non-payment of rent protections, albeit in a much more limited form.

Landlords Could Still Recover Late Rent

The proposal would not cancel rent for tenants who are late on their monthly payment — it would simply protect them from eviction for owing small amounts of back rent. Landlords could work out voluntary payment plans with their tenants. They could also try to recover overdue rent by suing tenants in small claims court.

Landlord groups oppose the proposal, saying that the county hasn’t engaged them on plans to strengthen permanent tenant safeguards once temporary COVID-19 provisions expire.

In a letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Fred Sutton with the California Apartment Association wrote, “Unfortunately, eviction proceedings are a necessary tool for rental operators as it is the only legal remedy to regain possession of a unit when a resident is not compensating the owner for the services of housing, or the resident is not adhering to the contract.”

The proposal was just one of a number of tenant protections advanced by the board of supervisors on Tuesday in preparation for the end of temporary COVID-19 provisions.

The supervisors voted to advance a 3% cap on rent increases next year for rent-controlled tenants in unincorporated L.A. County. That will need a final vote before taking effect. They also asked for county staff to report back on options for limiting landlords from screening new tenants based on their participation in a rent relief program during the pandemic.

The city of Los Angeles is also considering plans to wind down pandemic-era eviction protections for renters.

What questions do you have about housing in Southern California?