Rent control in LA: Everything you need to know

In addition to being a hotspot for creativity and culture, Los Angeles is one of the most renter-friendly cities in America. More than half of Angelenos rent, and seven in ten rental units are covered by rent control laws. Read on to learn the ways LA’s rent regulation rules apply on top of California’s statewide renter protections.

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Table of contents

What is rent control?Rent control in CaliforniaHistory of rent stabilization in Los AngelesHow rent stabilization works in LARent increasesEviction protections Arguments for and against rent control

What is rent control?

Rent control is a broad term for legislation that limits rental rates in a city or state. Rent control laws vary by municipality, but they generally put a limit on annual rent increases and protect tenants from eviction without cause. 

Rent control in California

California has had rent control in various forms in cities in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas since the 1970s. In 1995, the state passed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which exempted new construction, single family homes, and condos from rent control. It also made vacancy control (limiting rent between vacancies) illegal throughout the state. 

In late 2019, California became the second state (after Oregon) to pass a statewide rent control law. It covers all multi-family rental units built more than 15 years ago. The state law applies on top of any stricter local ordinances.

History of rent stabilization in Los Angeles

The earliest rent control laws in the city of Los Angeles date to 1921, but the Rent Stabilization Ordinance of 1979 is the basis of much of the current regulation in the city. (This is why rent control is called “rent stabilization” in LA.) The ordinance is broader than rent control laws in many other cities, and covers about 624,000 units: nearly all multi-family rental units built before October 1, 1978, including apartments, duplexes, mobile homes, and long-term boarding houses and hotels. 

Cities within Los Angeles County, as well as surrounding areas, also struggled with prohibitively high rents and extremely low vacancies. These cities passed their own rent stabilization ordinances between 1978 and 1986 in response to LA’s example:

  • West Hollywood

  • Beverly Hills

  • Santa Monica

  • Thousand Oaks

  • Palm Springs

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Los Angeles City Council paused rent increases and evictions for rent controlled units for 60 days. It later extended the rent and eviction freeze for at least a year, with no specific end date. 

How rent stabilization works in LA

The city of Los Angeles has different rules regarding rent control than those imposed by the state, but they only apply to buildings with a certificate of occupancy from October 1978 or earlier. Apartments built from late 1978 to 2005 are subject to the statewide rent control laws. Other cities in and around Los Angeles County may have their own rent control laws. 

Rent increases

Key points to know for rent controlled units specific to the city of Los Angeles.

  • Los Angeles rents are subject to a lower rent cap (8% maximum) under most circumstances than rent controlled buildings in other parts of the state (5% plus up to 5% inflation). 

  • Landlords can only raise the rent once every 12 months. 

  • When the rent increases, the landlord can raise the security deposit by the same amount. 

  • For every additional tenant (a roommate not on the original lease, for example) that moves in, the landlord can raise the rent 10%. The rent must be reduced by the same amount if that tenant moves out. 

  • The rent can be increased by 1% each year for utilities that the landlord pays.

  • At least 30 days notice is required for rent increases.

Eviction protections

Key points to know for rent controlled units specific to the city of Los Angeles.

  • For “no-fault” evictions (where the tenant did nothing wrong), the landlord must notify the city and pay a relocation assistance payment that varies from $8,500 to $21,200 based on the tenant’s income, length of tenancy, and reason for eviction. 

  • No-fault evictions can happen when:

    • The landlord wants the apartment for personal use or for a family member, or for the residence of a property manager. 

    • The building will be taken off the rental market permanently (by converting it to condos, for example). 

    • The building will be demolished.

    • The building is required by the government to be vacated due to legal violations. 

  • Landlords cannot evict tenants for the purpose of selling the building. 

  • If they file the correct paperwork with the city, landlords are allowed to offer buyouts to tenants, but tenants have the right to refuse these offers.

The Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department administers the rent control program but does not enforce it. Renters who believe their rights are being violated are responsible for hiring a lawyer and suing the landlord directly. 

It’s also good to know that in LA, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against renters who use government subsidies to pay for their rent. 

Arguments for and against rent control

Rent control laws give tenants currently in rent controlled units the benefit of lower housing costs. 

  • In Los Angeles, rent controlled tenants pay an average of $3,240 less per year than renters paying market rates. 

  • LA’s large relocation payments are one way to help tenants offset the expense of moving from a rent controlled apartment into market rate housing.  

Los Angeles’s strong protections do have downsides. 

  • As one of the largest cities with rent control laws in the country, the Los Angeles city government (and by extension, the city’s taxpayers) bears the burden of administering the rent stabilization ordinance. 

  • Many economists would rather let rents be controlled by market forces, which they argue would distribute housing costs more fairly in the long run by encouraging new construction and maintenance of older buildings. 

Rent controlled apartments are often hard to come by. Bungalow offers an alternative: affordable private rooms in shared homes that cost an average of 30% less than market-rate studio apartments in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in, and all roommates are vetted, so that coliving is seamless. Find a Bungalow near you.

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