L.A. Limits Buyouts

L.A. Limits Buyouts

October 2016

In Los Angeles, they call it “cash for keys” instead of a “buyout,” but the practice is the same: landlords pressing their rent-regulated tenants to take money to move out. The Los Angeles City Council passed a measure intended to restrict it Sept. 21.

The bill directs the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would require landlords to give tenants a written notice of their rights when offered such deals and to file copies of buyout agreements with the city housing agency. It would give tenants the right to pull out of a buyout for any reason within 30 days. If the agreement doesn’t meet the law’s requirements, the tenant could cancel it, and landlords who fail to comply could face lawsuits and fines.

“Many tenants don’t know their rights,” Carlos Aguilar of the housing group Coalition for Economic Survival told the City Council. “They believe they have no choice but to opt out and take the money and leave.”

A California law called the Ellis Act lets landlords evict tenants without cause if they’re taking a building out of the rental market for at least five years. If they do that, the city’s 1978 rent-stabilization law requires them to give the ousted tenants from $7,900 to $19,700 in relocation assistance. Older, disabled, and long-term renters get the higher end of that range. But if they take buyouts, the landlord can get away with paying less—and can also legally re-rent the apartment. 

“The landlords have become a lot bolder and are using illegal tactics and offering cash to get tenants out and avoid the Ellis Act,” Coalition for Economic Survival head Larry Gross told the L.A. Weekly.  

Once the city attorneys draw up a bill, it will be returned to the Council for final approval by the end of the year.