Inglewood elected officials voted unanimously to amend the city’s Housing Protection Ordinance (HPO) during the regular city council meeting held April 27.
Housing Protection Department Deputy Director Yakema Decatur, presented the staff report and fielded questions from the council regarding the department’s proposed changes and how it would impact owners.
“Eviction protections aren’t covered under rent increases
Decatur sought to establish a Master Fee schedule associated with operating the department, timeframe to register rental units, enforcement of the ordinance, rental increases, and just-cause evictions.
The HPO was set to take effect October 1, 2020, but was extended to October 1, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Mayor James Butts proposed delaying the collection of registration fees so long as the owner registers with the department during the modified deadline.
“For property owners that register their property, with the city’s Housing Protection Department, between January 7, 2022, through March 31, 2022, fees will be waived until October 1, 2022,” said Butts. “If you don’t register by March 31, 2022, you will be assessed fees beginning April 1, 2022.”
The limit of 3% plus Consumer Price Index (CPI) for annual increases will remain intact, however, for the purposes of calculating CPI, the city moved from the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County standard to Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim for the twelve-month period ending April 30 of each year. The change was intended to more closely match CPI to Inglewood’s location.
There are some exceptions.
Properties with five or more dwelling units will be allowed to increase their rent by 5% plus CPI, if rents are less than 80% of market value rent. Properties with four units or less, with rents less than 80% of market value rent, will be allowed to increase rent by 5%, plus CPI, and an additional 2%. Both scenarios require approval from the Housing Protection Department.
“Properties with five or more units and they are less than 80% of the median, are they allowed an additional CPI percentage in addition to the 5% the state gives,” asked Butts.
“They are not, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” said Decatur.
“I believe we’re below the median rents and I believe there should be an exemption so they are allowed to have the state increase, which is 5% plus CPI plus and I’m gonna make a motion to add that as an amendment,” said Butts.
“Who is supportive of that,” asked District 3 Councilman Eloy Morales Jr.
“The current ordinance only applies to rent increases for properties with five or more units, the four or less units, their increases are governed by the State and they don’t get an additional percentage, however, I would also ask the Council to consider giving the mom and pop owners under our ordinance,” said Decatur.
“Define “mom and pop”,” asked Morales.
“Four or less units,” said Decatur. “The proposed ordinance is bringing the four or less under the Inglewood ordinance, they still get the same increases under state, but I am proposing an additional 2% on top of that because we have no contigent for them to get a little extra.”
“We have groups that actually use one apartment for themselves, and rent the other three, how will our process be to get the additional 2%,” asked Morales.
“Currently I have the property owners email me and tell me the bedrooms of the units, the current rent, last time they raised the rent and if it’s less than twelve months, and less than 80% I approve the increase,” said Decatur.
Other significant changes include: raising registration fees to $206 for all units, without regard to the number of units on the property. Previously, registration fees were $84/unit for less than four units, and $168/unit for more than five units.
According to the staff report “services provided to tenants and landlords do not vary based on property size”.
Landlords will be allowed to “pass through” 50% of the registration fee costs to its tenants if paid on time.
The city is requiring the landlord pay the registration fees on time, in order to pass through costs to the tenant. Should the owner not pay their registration fees on time, they will be prohibited from advertising the unit, either demanding or collecting rent from their tenant, until the registration fee is paid.
Another significant amendment is the removal of the sunset clause, which would have resulted in the automatic repeal of the ordinance on December 31, 2024.
HP staff recommended the sunset date be removed in order to avoid the potentially sudden removal of an important protection for tenants.
The department recommends the city council revisit the rent increase amounts, within nine years, to coincide with State Legislation, which ends in 2030.
Just Cause eviction protections were modified to remove the option for landlords to evict if a tenant failed to sign a renewed lease. The department didn’t want tenants, wishing to convert their lease to month-to-month tenancy, giving up their rights and protections under the Inglewood Municipal Code (IMC).
The ordinance also addresses “loopholes” in the “just cause” grounds for eviction for a substantial remodel of the rental unit. Staff was concerned “substantial remodel” was not clearly defined and in turn created a high risk of becoming a loophole.
“The new owners offered only long-term residents the opportunity to take advantage of a monetary incentive to relocate so they could make renovations of their units,” said Shannon, who called in to the city council meeting. “When I declined their offer, I was told on June 30 the eviction moratorium would end at which point I would be given an eviction notice, would have to vacate and with no relocation assistance. I am a good tenant, and pay my rent on time every month, how could I be evicted?”
“The current ordinance lists substantial renovations for just-cause evictions, which in my opinion, is a loophole that new owners are taking advantage of and doesn’t protect tenants,” said Shannon. “I have lived in this unit for over ten years. I don’t want to move.”
One owner called in to state the proposed changes don’t benefit the landlords bottom line of profitability.
“Please consider the long-term impact the proposed will have on both owners and tenants, where it disproportionately impacts small business owners, that have provided rents significantly below market rate,” said Bob McLaughin. “The people at the bottom are being forced to renovate units to remain profitable.”
“Council, the city manager and city attorney have copies of the emails my office received
The council approved modifying the basis for just cause evictions, for renovations, and will allow owners to pass through 50% of the renovation costs, to the tenant, through a rent increase of no more than $100 per month, and imposed for no longer than 72 months (whichever comes first).
“The proposed ordinance combines substantial remodels with capital improvements, and instead of it being fees where they can recoup 50% of their costs, we’re making it rent and that way it protects the owners if the tenant chooses not to pay,” said Decatur.
Councilman Morales questioned the motivation in the initial department request of a $50 fee, as opposed to the last-minute request to turn the fee into an additional $100 of rent.
“Motivation is just what the first lady called about, she lived somewhere for ten years, she doesn’t want to move and doesn’t want the relocation, but under the current iteration she would have to move even if she didn’t take the $10,000 this would give her the option to stay but she would have to share in the cost for the renovations,” said Butts.
Morales wanted it clarified, on record, what the motivation was behind Butts’ amendment and implored Decatur to go further.
“The caller that called is what I call a “lucky” tenant because I been getting calls from seniors where the new property management has been telling them when June 30 comes, you’re going to get a 60 day increase because we are going to do a substantial remodel but only offering $3,000 when I calculate relocation should be $12,000 so I tell my seniors don’t move,” said Decatur.
“Landlords are being forced out of business,” said Rod Wright, former Senator of the Inglewood area. “Eventually, we will be forced to sell to the “big boys” because we can’t afford to keep up the property.”
All proposed amendments were unanimously approved, despite City Clerk Aisha Thompson’s failure to fully read Mayor Butts’ first proposed amendment, related to CPI rate increases, before roll call was announced to vote.