LA City Council votes today on rent control ordinance

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to vote today on a ordinance that would prevent owners of large apartment buildings from raising rent at least through Halloween.

Owners of rent-controlled apartment buildings – properties with two or more units built before 1978 – normally would be allowed to raise rent by 3 percent on July 1.

The proposed ordinance would block that increase, except for so-called "mom-and-pop" landlords who have only five units or fewer. It would freeze rents through Oct. 31, with the possibility of an extension through Dec. 31. Los Angeles has about 630,000 rent-controlled units, and more than 61 percent of residents are believed to be renters.

After listening to emotional testimony from landlords and tenants, the council tentatively approved the ordinance by an 8-6 vote on May 7.

More revisions to the ordinance may be necessary.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich suggested granting an exemption to mobile home park owners, as well, noting that a federal appeals court is scheduled to hear a case next month on rent control law as it applies to mobile home parks.

"With the current unsettled nature of the law, it is possible that not providing an exception from this draft ordinance for mobile home parks might subject the city to litigation and significant monetary damages," Trutanich said in the cover letter attached to the proposed ordinance.

Under the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance, landlords can raise rent annually in an amount equal to or less than the percentage increase in the U.S. Consumer Price Index for that year.

The minimum allowable rent increase is 3 percent, even in years when the CPI is less than 3 percent. Currently, the CPI is -0.62 percent.

Councilman Richard Alarcon pushed for a new ordinance that would freeze rents at their current levels for a year.

Councilman Herb Wesson, however, called for shortening the time period to four months, from July 1 to Oct. 31. Councilwoman Janice Hahn proposed granting an exemption to "mom and pop" landlords.

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