Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Denies Landlord Association’s Request to Overturn Innovative Tenant Protections
LOS ANGELES, January 23, 2024 – A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has upheld two innovative tenant protection ordinances passed by the Los Angeles City Council against a legal challenge by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA). One ordinance prohibits evictions based on nonpayment unless the tenant owes at least one month’s fair market rent, and the other ordinance requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants forced to leave due to significant rent increases.
These protections are especially important now, as tenants face a Feb. 1 deadline to pay any back rent accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Los Angeles renters are paying some of the highest housing prices in the nation,” said Stephano Medina, Staff Attorney at Public Counsel, which helped uphold the legality of the ordinances. “This decision sends a clear message to cities throughout the state that we need local leaders to innovate, like Los Angeles advocates have done, to help families stay in their homes and prevent frivolous evictions.”
Judge Mitchell Beckloff denied AAGLA’s legal challenge seeking to overturn the two ordinances, finding that each was well within the limits set by state law.
Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Bet Tzedek, and Susman Godfrey LLP are attorneys for InnerCity Struggle (ICS) and Community Power Collective (CPC), which represent thousands of low-income tenants and intervened in the case to defend the ordinances.
Los Angeles City Council adopted the new tenant protections in February 2023 to safeguard renters’ housing security as COVID eviction protections expired. AAGLA filed its lawsuit the following month, seeking to overturn the ordinances. The challenge is just one in a series of attempts by AAGLA to undermine common-sense tenant protections passed in Los Angeles in the wake of progressive victories in several council district elections.
“This decision means so much because it gives low-income tenants a fighting chance of keeping a roof over their heads when faced with an unexpected financial emergency,” said Eva Garcia, Tenant Organizer with Community Power Collective (CPC). “We are thrilled, and at the same time, we are not done. Tenants still have to go to court to enact this protection, meaning a codified Right to Counsel is imperative. We also know that the pandemic has left many families with more than one month of rental debt, and we need to find a way to ensure they don’t end up on the streets.”
“These ordinances, and the Court’s decision to uphold them, are an important step forward in preventing evictions and decreasing homelessness rates in L.A.,” said Ellie Dupler from Susman Godfrey. “We firmly believe that the Court’s decision is both the correct interpretation of the law as well as the decision that will best protect low-income residents across Los Angeles.”
“We’ve seen people lose their homes because they were short less than $100 on rent – or because they were waiting for unemployment or other public benefits to kick in,” said Cassidy Bennett, Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). “The judge’s ruling affirms the power of cities to regulate evictions so that tenants can stay in their homes.”
“Landlords often use large rent increases to push tenants out. The Court’s decision affirms that cities have the power to require that landlords using this tactic pay relocation assistance so that their tenants can afford to find new housing,” said Nicholas Lampros, Bet Tzedek Staff Attorney.
“High rents and evictions disproportionately impact people from communities of color. Our coalition fought hard for the LA City Council to adopt these policies to protect our communities from displacement,” said Ruby Rivera, Senior Director of Community Organizing at ICS. “Our victory in this legal case means these tenant protections can continue to help keep LA housed. We hope it also inspires tenants in other cities to push for their own stronger protections.”
If AAGLA appeals the ruling, the ordinances will remain in effect during court proceedings. Judge Beckloff’s full written ruling can be found here.
For more information on Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, click here.
For media inquiries, email Alex with Rise Strategy Group here.
About Public Counsel
Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.
About Community Power Collective
Community Power Collective builds power with low-income workers and tenants through transformative organizing to win economic justice, community control of land and housing, and to propagate systems of cooperation in Boyle Heights and the greater LA region.
About InnerCity Struggle
InnerCity Struggle’s mission is to ignite a transformational and intergenerational movement by building community power to advance justice, life opportunities, and dignity in the Eastside of Los Angeles.
About Bet Tzedek
Bet Tzedek – The House of Justice – is an internationally recognized force in economic justice law and one of the largest legal aid organizations in Los Angeles County. With more than 100 staff members, 1,200+ active volunteers, and an award-winning pro bono model of service, Bet Tzedek assists communities most in need, providing direct legal representation to elders, Holocaust survivors, workers, tenants, families and children, immigrants, and transgender individuals. Bet Tzedek staff also conducts expansive outreach and educational programs, and undertakes impact litigation and policy advocacy on issues of significance to our clients. In 2022, we served over 85,000 individuals and families regardless of race, religion, immigration status, or sexual orientation. For more information, visit www.bettzedek.org.
About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles is a nonprofit law firm that protects and advances the rights of the most underserved – leveling the playing field and ensuring that everyone can have access to the justice system. Every year, LAFLA provides free, high-quality legal services to more than 100,000 people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. Our unique combination of neighborhood offices, self-help centers at courthouses, and domestic violence clinics puts LAFLA on the front lines in vulnerable communities, and at the forefront of change.
About Susman Godfrey
Susman Godfrey is a nationwide law firm of 170 trial lawyers. We handle high-stakes litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad range of practice areas and industries. Susman Godfrey’s attorneys are known for finding a fee arrangement—contingent, flat, hourly, or hybrid—that best suits a client’s case. With a relentless focus on winning at trial, Susman Godfrey is recognized as American Lawyer’s National Boutique Litigation Firm of the Year and for thirteen consecutive years has been named by Vault as the nation’s leading litigation boutique. Visit www.susmangodfrey.com to learn more about our unique approach to winning cases.