In a city with the least affordable rents in America and a housing crisis that has seen folks scrambling for decent shelter, the last thing we need is evictions from rent-control apartments.

But that's what's been happening. A state law known as the Ellis Act recognizes landlords' right to turn their rental property into homes and condos. As a result of this low-vacancy seller's market, there are widespread reports of so-called Ellis Act evictions throughout the city.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Gil Cedillo want to keep closer tabs on Ellis Act evictions to ensure that people aren't being kicked to the curb fraudulently.

A motion introduced by Cedillo yesterday asks the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID) to keep sharp eyes on properties where rent-control tenants have been evicted in the name of Ellis. The proposal is backed by Garcetti.

The leaders don't want landlords to evict rent-control tenants and then get sneaky by failing to follow through with a conversion to for-sale housing. In that scenario, rents that were held down by the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance could bounce up to market rates.

The law gives owners five years to complete their conversions, but the motion here suggests that some landlords are sticking with lucrative rentals after evicting long-term tenants who enjoyed cheaper rents.

According to a summary by Cedillo's office, the law would have HCID officials … 

 … review permits for properties that have invoked the Ellis Act at all stages of their development plans, including the issuance of both demolition permits and building permits, for a 5-year period after the properties have been withdrawn from the rental market. This closes an existing loophole and ensures that property owners follow the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) when they remove units through the Ellis Act. The RSO requires that “Ellissed” properties being re-rented or rebuilt within five years provide housing at specified affordability levels.

The Department of Building and Safety and the Planning Department also would be tapped to keep tabs on Ellis conversions.

Garcetti says this is about “preserving the affordability we have now.”

He says the proposal provides “common-sense fixes that improve access to information and enforcement of the rules we have on the books.”

Cedillo calls the move a “quick fix” that would help “protect our affordable housing stock.”

“The Ellis Act allows for owners to leave the rental market,” he said, “but we must ensure protections for tenants are in place, and today's motion ensures adequate monitoring to guarantee there are no illegal evictions, and those who do invoke Ellis are doing so under the allowed provisions of state and local law.”

A spokesman for Cedillo said the motion is heading immediately to the City Council's Housing Commitee for its consideration.

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