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Sylvia Moore, 213-804-4679, [email protected]
Tenant Leaders, Advocates and City Councilmembers on Friday Mark First Day of Anti-Harassment Ordinance Enforcement at Los Angeles City Hall
Tenant Leaders Also Urge Improvements to the Ordinance to Further Protect Renters From Abuse
LOS ANGELES (August 6, 2021) - Hailing a new citywide anti-harassment ordinance as a major victory in the fight for strong tenant protections, tenants’ rights advocates and attorneys representing tenants gathered at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday to mark the first day the city’s new anti-harassment ordinance goes into effect.
Tenant leaders from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) were joined at the conference by Councilmember Kevin de León and representatives from the Eviction Defense Network and the office of Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. Advocates thanked de León, Ridley-Thomas, Councilmember Nithya Raman, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Council President Nury Martinez for their support and leadership on protecting Los Angeles tenants from abuse. De León stopped by to share a timely motion that relates to landlord harassment. He was about to head to the City Council to introduce a motion to get the city to speed up the process of disbursing rent assistance payments to tenants, many of whom cannot access funds after the city recently closed the application process. “It makes no sense at all whatsoever to be sitting on $235 million,” said de Leon. “More than 70,000 people have applied...and have yet to have seen an application approval, have yet to receive a single penny.”
Tenant leaders on Friday also urged the City Council to make fixes to the anti-harassment ordinance that include making it retroactive, saying that it’s in the interest of justice to hold landlords accountable to all abuse, not for just incidents happening after August 6. “It is not retroactive, this law. It goes into effect this month. We would like for it to be retroactive for four years. If we can’t have four years, then at least to the beginning of the pandemic,” ACCE member Tai Carlton, said at Friday’s conference.
ACCE has so far documented 356 cases of landlord harassment reported in the last four months. Members who experienced harassment shared their stories, including ACCE member Orma Mendez, an elderly tenant on a fixed income, who had used intimidation tactics to try to evict Orma from her home. Orma’s landlord had tried to pay her to get her to leave, which would be a violation under the newly passed anti-harassment ordinance. “You know what we need? We need for landlords to stop this harassment!” Orma, 75, said at Friday’s conference. “We need it! We need it! We need it!”
Councilmember Nithya Raman, who helped shepherd several pro-tenant amendments into the final draft of the ordinance, said in a statement: “Tenant harassment has been pervasive in Los Angeles for far too long. I am very proud that this ordinance alleviates some of the intense pressures that so many tenants who rent in Los Angeles are subjected to and that can force them to vacate their units.” She added that “this work would not be possible without the immense support and dedication of tenant protection groups like ACCE - and I am humbled to be fighting alongside them for an LA that really takes care of its residents.”
“It is now city law in Los Angeles, making landlord bullying tactics and coercive behavior illegal and providing an affirmative defense for tenants in eviction cases when landlords engage in actions constituting harassment while strengthening civil penalties. During these challenging times, tenants struggling to make ends meet have been the most vulnerable to losing their homes. L.A.’s renters have long needed a strong anti-harassment ordinance to protect them from illegal displacement. The new law is now in effect,” Councilmember Gil Cedillo, chairman of the City Council’s Housing Committee, said in a statement.
“Homelessness prevention is the first pillar in establishing a Right to Housing. I’m proud to support the passage of the Tenant Anti-Harassment law, which is an important step in the right direction,” Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a tweet.
Tenants who are experiencing harassment can get help by calling ACCE’s hotline at 1-888-964-8086.
ACCE tenants’ rights advocates organized for four years to get the City of Los Angeles to pass an anti-harassment law, which was finally approved on June 9. Advocates want the City Council to improve the law by adding the following amendments:
- Los Angeles needs to notify landlords that the law has passed
- Make the law retroactive to include incidents of harassment occurring before August 2021
- Put the burden of proof on landlords, not tenants
- State that tenants who prevail in court “shall” - rather than “may” - receive attorney’s fees, compensatory damages and other repairs
A recording of Friday’s press conference is available on ACCE’s Facebook page.
The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 15,000 members across California. ACCE is dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future.