L.A. City Council Moves Forward with Private Attorneys for Renters
At the March 22nd L.A. City Council Meeting, the Council voted to direct the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) to provide recommendations within 60 days for the establishment of a “Right to Counsel” ordinance and program whereby the City will pay for private attorneys (NOT Public Counsel) for renters ONLY using taxpayer dollars.
The motion sponsored by Democratic Socialists and City Council Members Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Eunisses Hernandez as well as Council Members Bob Blumenfield, Katy Yaroslavsky and Heather Hutt was approved unanimously.
The recommendations will consider and likely include, among others:
1) Coverage for renters making 80% of the area median income or less,
2) full legal representation of renters for any judicial or administrative proceedings to evict or terminate the tenancy or housing subsidy of a covered individual, including first appeals at the discretion of contracted legal service providers, and
3) a requirement that rental housing owners provide notice to tenants of the right to obtain a City-paid private attorney when tenancies are initiated and attached to any termination notice in the primary language of the tenant.
In addition, LAHD and other departments will report back in 60 days with a detailed cost breakdown and staffing needs for the new ordinance and program.
This new “Right to Counsel” program is only 1 out of 11 programs under Measure ULA and it does not specify that the legal representation is to be provided by private attorneys, but that is what this motion contemplates. It is the only program currently being discussed and expedited for preferential treatment by the City Council and it is by far the most divisive program as it promotes class warfare between one group of citizens against another group of citizens by only paying for private attorneys for one side. Yet the City Council has chosen to pursue this program alone due to their misplaced hostility towards rental property owners providing housing to those unable to afford or choosing not to buy a house in the City. It is the City Council’s own failure to provide below-market rate rental housing (a/k/a public housing, social housing or affordable housing) that should be addressed and is required for 70% of Measure ULA funds. Yet the City Council has taken no steps to own its failures and put forward proposals to implement those programs under Measure ULA.
Prior to the meeting and during the meeting’s public comment period, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) expressed strong opposition to the proposed motion. We also highlighted that the overwhelming majority of evictions are due to non-payment of rent and if the City really wants to stop evictions, the focus should instead be on providing direct rental subsidies to help renters in need pay back owed rent so that no eviction proceedings or attorneys are needed by either party in the first place.
We will continue to monitor this issue, advocate for our members’ interests, and provide updates when the recommendations for the “Right to Counsel” ordinance are provided to the City Council.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions regarding your property or specific tenancies and the requirements of any local law changes described herein, please consult with an attorney.