Know Your Renter’s Rights
By Sonya Sultan, SMRR Secretary and Executive Committee member
SMRR makes every effort to ensure that renters are secure in their homes. Such efforts are especially important now that the economy is improving, because some landlords may try to make way for new renters who will pay higher rents.
Ellis notices vs. Ellis threats: Watch for threats to evict under the Ellis Act. State law allows an owner to go out of the rental business under the Ellis eviction act, but the owner must comply with several formalities (including filing with the Rent Control Board). Once an official Ellis notice is filed, tenants are legally entitled to relocation assistance of between $10,000 and $20,000, time to leave, and some low-income households MAY qualify for replacement housing. Seniors (62+) and disabled tenants have up to one year before they are required to move out.
Some landlords merely threaten Ellis to deprive tenants of legal protections to which they are entitled or harass tenants unlawfully. Landlords have even been known to circulate DRAFT Ellis notices or buyout offers without ever filing with the Rent Board. Because of these “threats,” tenants get tricked out of their homes under the threat of an Ellis that never occurs. Don’t let this happen to you! If your landlord is threatening Ellis without filing the actual notice, this may be the basis for an harassment claim. If you hear of a possible Ellis action, get the facts from the Rent Board and also see a tenant attorney at the first sign of trouble.
Resources: For 24 years, the SMRR Tenant Hotline has been serving renters with tenancy problems. Call the Hotline at 310-394-0848 and a volunteer will help answer your questions. The Santa Monica office of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA, 310-899-6200) assists low income tenants and can also provide a list of private tenant attorneys. The Santa Monica Rent Control Board number is 310-458-8751.