Council to decide tenant harassment ordinance at special Monday morning meeting

The Long Beach City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance that could help protect the city’s renters from landlord harassment during a special meeting scheduled for Monday morning.

Whether the item would be taken up before Tuesday’s election was a point of contention among the council members during an Oct. 20 meeting, during which the council voted 5-3 to move forward with the crafting of the ordinance. If approved, it would go into effect at midnight Monday.

There were early concerns over whether a quorum could be achieved for a special meeting on such a short notice and on the day before the election, but at least five members of the council will be present for Monday’s vote. Mayor Robert Garcia had said that he would not be a the meeting if held on Monday and it’s unclear if all members of the council will participate in the vote.

Councilman Dee Andrews proposed the item just weeks before the election. The division on the council was driven by a lack of clarity and direction of the item that was laid out by Andrews as well as the amount of time being provided for the city attorney’s office to return with an ordinance for the full council to vote on.

A similar ordinance was proposed by Councilwoman Mary Zendejas in August but was ultimately scrapped from the council’s September agenda.

The ordinance could lay out some additional forbidden practices for the city’s landlords like withholding repairs, threatening to report tenants to immigration officials or providing false information to renters regarding their rights surrounding evictions during the pandemic. It would not, however, block landlords from carrying out lawful evictions.

There have been complaints that some landlords have harassed tenants to force them out or to have them sign new leases with large rent increases all while the city has had laws in place to protect tenants from evictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the ordinance, if passed, would outline some new protections for renters, the law will not be enforced by the city. Instead, tenants who feel like their new rights under the ordinance have been violated will have to take their landlords to civil court to settle the matter.

Landlords found to be in violation of the ordinance could be subject to civil penalties of between $2,000 and $5,000 per violation. If the tenant is over the age of 65 or disabled a judge could award an additional $5,000 per violation in addition to attorney fees.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the tenant harassment protections at 11:30 a.m. Monday. To watch, visit lbtv3.com/.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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