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Public Counsel successfully defends the City of Los Angeles' COVID-19 tenant protections

Along with partners Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Interest Law Project, and Susman Godfrey LLP, we moved to intervene on behalf of tenants’ rights organizations the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE Action) and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) in the federal lawsuit Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) v. City of Los Angeles. AAGLA’s lawsuit sought to void the City’s validly enacted eviction protection and rent freeze ordinances, allowing its members to engage in mass evictions in the midst of a global pandemic — a catastrophe for Los Angeles tenants and the region’s health. 

Los Angeles sits at the juncture of three unfolding crises — a global public health pandemic, an ever-increasing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, and a movement for Black Lives that seeks justice for those who are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of the first two crises. Tenant protections are an essential way to keep people safe and healthy during the pandemic.

The City of Los Angeles enacted an ordinance in late March to provide tenants with an affirmative defense to certain unlawful detainer actions. The ordinance, among other things, prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to COVID-19, such as loss of income or healthcare expenses; provides tenants with a 12-month repayment period to pay back rent; and prohibits landlords from evicting tenants based on the presence of unauthorized occupants or pets or for nuisance related to COVID-19. The City also enacted an ordinance in early May to freeze rent increases for one year for all units protected by the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. 

ACCE and SAJE are tenants’ rights membership organizations comprised of low-income and very low-income Black and Brown people in Los Angeles. The majority of their members are severely rent burdened and are one crisis away from homelessness. A majority have lost income during the pandemic and are struggling to pay rent; those that kept their jobs are frontline workers who are risking contracting COVID-19 every day because they have no other choice. Since the ordinances were adopted, tenants like ACCE and SAJE members have faced increased harassment by landlords employing tactics such as sending excessive notices, forcing tenants to sign repayment agreements, and neglecting essential repairs. It was essential for tenants to be represented in this lawsuit because they are the people who are facing eviction, homelessness, and potentially catastrophic health consequences if the Court voids the ordinances.

By joining the lawsuit, and defending the voices of low-income tenants and tenants of color we were able to preserve the City’s eviction protection and rent freeze ordinances, ultimately keeping all of us safe.


You can read the intervention papers HERE and the order granting ACCE Action and SAJE the ability to intervene HERE. You can read the press release on the final ruling on the preliminary injunction HERE.


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