Here’s How One West Hollywood Renter Fought An Illegal Rent Hike And Won

In many elements of Los Angeles County, native governments have banned hire hikes through the COVID-19 pandemic. But regardless of these legal guidelines, tenants nonetheless face calls for from landlords to pay extra.

Whether they will combat these hire hikes typically will depend on the place they reside.

“Unfortunately, there’s no consistency as to how various cities or governmental agencies are handling these types of issues,” stated Trinidad Ocampo, the directing legal professional of housing packages at Neighborhood Legal Services of L.A. County.

Some elements of L.A. County with COVID-19 hire freezes in place have nonetheless allowed landlords to extend rents through the pandemic. Enforcement will depend on which metropolis’s jurisdiction you fall below, and it may range broadly from block to dam. This spotty enforcement, tenant advocates say, has led to confusion — and potential housing instability.

“Property owners are trying to find ways around those protections,” Ocampo stated. “Through the pandemic, certain jurisdictions have imposed greater protections.”

“I Told Him That’s Not Legal”

Brian Cunha’s house in West Hollywood is cozy — simply sufficient room for him and his canine.

“It’s a small studio,” he stated. “I can lay in bed and fry an egg at the same time.”

Space is tight, and there’s development noise subsequent door. But he loves the neighborhood. That’s why he lately fought a $350 hire hike — and gained.

“I’ve lost so many friends in West Hollywood that have had to leave because they couldn’t afford the rent,” Cunha stated. “I felt like if I stood up to this, maybe in a small way I could make a difference.”

Cunha moved to his new place in June of 2020, proper because the pandemic was hollowing out L.A.

“Everyone was leaving,” he recalled. “When I got here, there were moving trucks. Long-term tenants were leaving the building. Everyone was scared at that point. No one wanted to live in a city.”

With landlords struggling to fill vacant items, Cunha was capable of negotiate his hire to $1,550 monthly.

Your L.A. Rent Hike Cheat Sheet

  • Click right here to learn our LAist information to allowable hire will increase all through L.A. County.

But when his lease got here up for renewal, his landlord stated he’d have to start out paying $1,900 — a rise of practically 23%.

“I objected to it. I told him that it’s not legal,” Cunha stated. “I would not have moved in had I known that was going to be the rent.”

How To Fight And Win A Rent Increase in West Hollywood

But the owner advised Cunha to take one other have a look at his lease. It included a clause on web page three, labeled “additions and exceptions,” describing the $1,550 monthly in hire he’d been paying as a brief discount. The landlord stated that low cost was now going away, that means Cunha now owed $350 extra every month.

Hoping to resolve the dispute, Cunha contacted town’s Rent Stabilization Division.

“I filed what’s called a MAR hearing — maximum allowable rent in West Hollywood,” he stated.

The submitting led to a public listening to earlier than town’s Rent Stabilization Commission. The landlord’s consultant laid out their case. Cunha laid out his.

It’s basically an unlawful hire enhance.

— Jonathan Holub, West Hollywood hire stabilization supervisor

To his aid, town sided with Cunha, saying the hire he’d been paying from the beginning of his tenancy ought to decide will increase shifting ahead — not a lease clause saying his precise hire was a lot greater.

“What the landlord was trying to do by increasing the rent subsequent to the initiation of the tenancy is not permitted under the existing law,” stated Jonathan Holub, West Hollywood’s hire stabilization supervisor. “It’s essentially an illegal rent increase.”

During regular occasions, West Hollywood limits annual will increase in rent-controlled housing primarily based on inflation, calculated as 75% of the native Consumer Price Index. Those limits have ranged wherever from 0 to 4%.

Currently, town bans all will increase through the pandemic. Holub stated landlords can’t use ways equivalent to low cost clauses to get across the ban.

“They can’t then just decide they’re going to raise it at some future point,” he stated. “That completely undermines the purpose behind rent stabilization.”

When the choice got here down, Cunha stated he felt, “Vindicated. It was a very, very stressful year.”

A group of people participate in the annual LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California, on June 9, 2019.

People take part within the annual LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California, on June 9, 2019.

(DAVID MCNEW/AFP through Getty Images



Two Cities. Two Very Different Outcomes

 Cunha was fortunate to reside in West Hollywood, a metropolis based in 1984 when LGBTQ+ residents, seniors and tenants banded collectively to push for stronger hire controls. If he had been dwelling just a few blocks away within the metropolis of L.A., he would’ve misplaced the hire dispute.

Tenants in L.A.’s Koreatown lately confronted the identical sort of hire hike as Cunha. West Hollywood bans the apply. But town of L.A. says it’s completely authorized.

City officers level to a piece in L.A.’s hire management legislation saying, “landlords may offer temporary rent discounts.”

City council president Nury Martinez’s workplace supported that studying and deferred us to L.A.’s housing division, which has maintained that landlords can elevate rents primarily based on low cost clauses written into leases — even when tenants by no means realized they have been getting a reduction.

“We will be working with the Housing Department and the City Attorney to look at what other cities have done on this issue,” stated Martinez’s spokesperson Sophie Gilchrist.

UCLA researcher Kathryn Leifheit sits at a laptop and pulls up the <a href=Online map she created showing allowable rent increases across L.A. County.” data-image-size=”articleImage” width=”792″ top=”528″ src=”×1184+0+0/resize/792×528!/quality/90/?” loading=”lazy” bad-src=”data:image/svg+xml;base64,PHN2ZyB4bWxucz0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy53My5vcmcvMjAwMC9zdmciIHZlcnNpb249IjEuMSIgaGVpZ2h0PSI1MjhweCIgd2lkdGg9Ijc5MnB4Ij48L3N2Zz4=”/>

UCLA researcher Kathryn Leifheit pulls up the Online map she created exhibiting allowable hire will increase throughout L.A. County.

Unaffordable Rent Hikes Can Take A Toll On Health

Inconsistent enforcement between cities isn’t simply complicated, stated UCLA assistant professor Kathryn Leifheit — it may additionally find yourself harming tenants’ well being.

“If you don’t have stable, affordable, safe housing, then it’s really hard to thrive and to stay well,” stated Leifheit, who does epidemiological analysis on the hyperlinks between housing and well being.

Research from Leifheit and her colleagues has proven that COVID-19 circumstances and deaths rose dramatically when states ended their eviction moratoriums in earlier phases of the pandemic. But she stated COVID-19 isn’t the one unhealthy end result for tenants going through unaffordable hire hikes.

“We know that when pregnant moms get evicted, they’re more likely to give birth to babies that are low birth weight or preterm,” Leifheit stated. “We know that when kids get evicted, they’re more likely to go food insecure, and have developmental issues and problems concentrating in school.”

After receiving a 17% hire hike discover in her personal house in Santa Monica final month, Leifheit determined to do some digging. She discovered that her hire enhance was method over the restrict in her metropolis.

Wanting to Help tenants determine the foundations the place they reside, Leifheit referenced our written information on allowable hire will increase all through L.A. to create an Online map exhibiting what will increase are permitted, and the place.

Looking on the map, Leifheit stated, “It’s complicated. You look at the map, and it’s this crazy patchwork all over the county.”

If tenants lack this data, Leifheit worries they might find yourself agreeing to pay unlawful hire hikes — and a few could even lose their housing.

“Unfortunately, I think right now, it comes down to the individual tenant to both know their rights and enforce their rights,” she stated. “And that’s not a good system.”

Tenants can attain out to the L.A. metropolis and county-funded useful resource for authorized help. 

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