Inglewood emergency measure limits rent increases, freezes evictions

It's been a beehive of activity lately in and around Inglewood. The NFL stadium at Hollywood Park is the new “must-see” entertainment destination and gathering spot, but there will be more ribbon cutting. The arrival of the Crenshaw/LAX rail line, a proposed arena for the Los Angeles Clippers and a development boom around LAX has created a lot of buzz and new faces to a neighborhood considered to be a respite from higher rents elsewhere.

Inglewood's close proximity to the beach cities of the South Bay and the flourishing tech hubs on the Westside is also making the city attractive to new buyers who are putting upward pressure on home values.

Most everyone likes a comeback story, and MT Evictions, for one, was elated to see a city wobbling on the edge of bankruptcy a few years ago experience a revival. While we were glad to see Inglewood get the respect it finally deserves as an emerging force in Los Angeles, not all enjoy a rags-to-riches story.

History has taught us that growth begets calls for rent control and the city has finally heard the chorus of tenant advocates after initially resisting pressure from residents to enact rent control. Although Inglewood kicked the can down the road to develop a more thought-through ordinance, its emergency measure leaves little doubt that the city is committed to keeping tenants planted in their current apartments.

Landlords are now caught in the crosshairs of Inglewood's growth after Councilmembers voted unanimously on Tuesday, March 5 to enact a 45-day moratorium on rent hikes above 5 percent and prohibiting evictions unless the underlying reason is for criminality or drug use.

The rules apply to apartment buildings, duplexes, and other rental units built prior to February 1, 1995. But pursuant to Costa Hawkins - a state law that survived repeal efforts last year - single-family homes and condos are exempt.

This sweeping ban on evictions without evidence of criminal activity in the rental unit is extraordinary. While many locales have enacted just cause eviction regulations that allow a landlord to evict in a limited set of circumstances, such as nonpayment of rent and other violations of the lease, Inglewood only allows removal of the tenant in the most egregious of circumstances.

There was a bit of confusion among our clients, as some media outlets reported that the city ushered in “just cause” eviction protections. Though criminal activity is clearly a just cause to evict, it is only one of many potential lease violations. As for other offenses that can serve as a reason to evict, well, they don't exist.

According to Mayor James T. Butts, the ban on evictions was not put on the table in the original proposal, but it was added to the final version after hearing from residents and succumbing to lobbying efforts by Uplift Inglewood Coalition, a group that has advocated for citywide rent control and tried unsuccessfully last year to put a rent control initiative on the city's ballot.

The crowd at Tuesday's hearing erupted in applause when the mayor took the bull by the horns in announcing the emergency measure ensures there will be no evictions other than for criminality.

“If we’re going to make a bold move, make the move so there is no ambiguity.”

To Councilmember Eloy Morales, the city is taking a time-out to draft a more thorough ordinance and get it right.

“The moratorium is a pause. We’re basically saying, ‘Hold everything,’” said Morales, yet time and time again, MT Evictions has seen temporary measures drag on as longer-term solutions are hashed out – according to its language, Inglewood's emergency measure can be extended for up to one year. Translation: landlords can be out of many cycles of rent.

It's not clear what Inglewood's final iteration of rent control will look like, but relocation payments are sure to enter the discussion. The city will get no shortage of input from the city's residents, nearly two-thirds of whom are renters, and an emboldened Uplift Inglewood Coalition. On its Facebook page, the group seemed to be basking in glory.

Organizing works! Since November 2015, our coalition has organized to address displacement issues in the City of...

Posted by Uplift Inglewood on Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Inglewood is the latest laboratory in rent control and comes on the heels of Glendale's soul-searching, the focal point of our earlier article. Having first adopted an emergency measure of its own before resolving the quandary, Glendale's finalized "right to lease" ordinance has taken a more balanced approach in rent increase regulations by saying to landlords: raise the rents as much as your heart desires, but hikes over 7 percent will trigger relocation payments that must be dolled out to tenants who say the rent is too damn high. 

Parting thoughts

Inglewood's experiment in expanded renter protections highlights how fluid regulations are, but you can count on MT Evictions to help you understand a complicated and ever-changing regulatory regime. Want to meet up in a workshop? Paulina welcomes the opportunity to visit you and your team to discuss rent control, evictions, and other challenges rental housing providers face. Contact us for guidance or book an event online.