The Glendale City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it tougher for landlords to evict tenants.
In a rental market defined by few vacancies and high rents, council members and tenants are calling on landlords to provide "good cause" to evict. Also, landlords would face stiffer penalties for evicting tenants, reducing services or hiking rents in response to a tenant's complaints.
Landlords prosecuted under state law for retaliatory evictions can already be fined up to $1,000.
Under the proposed city law, landlords could face additional fines of up to $500 and possibly a misdemeanor conviction resulting in up to six months in jail, City Atty. Scott Howard said.
"A tenant can exercise their rights [under state law], but they can also use the provisions of our code, which would be a little broader," Howard said.
The proposed ordinance gives 11 reasons a landlord can evict, including nonpayment of rent, allowing additional occupants to live in the apartment without the landlord's approval, and use of the property to conduct illegal activity.
"If the landlord can't meet one of the criteria for [evicting a tenant] justly, then there are now ways to get to that landlord," Councilman Dave Weaver said. "If you double the rent, we can get to you. Or if a landlord says, 'I want to get you out to get someone else in,' they have to explain why."
Not only does Glendale have a critically low vacancy rate, but its rents are among the top third in Los Angeles County, said Ray Vargas, a city housing administrator.
Because of the tight market, tenants are afraid of losing their apartments, said Mike Allen, spokesman for the tenants' rights group Glendale Housing Crisis Forum.
This means, Allen said, "a lot of tenants are afraid to ask for repairs, to speak at City Council or call city housing departments to have an inspection," for fear they might end up on the street.
If the proposed ordinance is approved Tuesday, a tenant "can't be evicted for doing these things," Allen said.
Property managers and their representatives, however, don't see the proposed ordinance as a cure-all.
Herbert Molano, president of the Glendale Apartment Assn., which represents property owners and management firms, said landlords who evict tenants indiscriminately should face penalties.
Landlords who aren't malicious but simply do a poor job screening prospective tenants shouldn't be stuck with bad tenants, Molano said. "We know that the objectives are honorable, but the manner at which it was directed was quite disadvantageous to our industry."
But Councilman Weaver said it's not the good landlords who should worry. "Any landlord that is doing the right thing by their tenants has nothing to fear," he said.