Renters’ Rights 101: What you should know about eviction

Anti-eviction sign in Highland Park

Sign in Spanish reads “Evictions No!”


Eviction notices. Relocation fees. Habitability issues. Landlord negotiations. These are all complicated legal processes that unfortunately, many renters don’t always know how to navigate.

Knowing these rights is more important than ever as a hot real estate market and gentrification has given many landlords the incentive to raise rents and find tenants who can pay more. That’s why the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council is teaming up with Angela McArdle, a registered legal document assistant and tenant’s rights paralegal to sponsor a free Renters’ Rights Workshop next week.

“I certainly support that property owners have a right to make a profits from their investments, but so many of the tactics they are employing are illegal,” says McArdle. “We all know that gentrification is a big issue here in Northeast Los Angeles. I’ve seen more issues around it especially in the last year.”

McArdle answers some of the basics questions about tenant’s rights.

Q: What is eviction?
A: An eviction is a lawsuit. It’s a legal way for a landlord to forcibly remove renters from their property.

Q: What’s the most common misunderstanding about eviction?
A: The biggest misunderstanding is that once you are served with an eviction notice – whether in person or delivered to the property – renters have 5 days to respond by filing an answer in court. Not responding or avoiding the eviction notices can be costly and furthers legal procedures against the tenants. People think that if they just avoid or ignore a notice, it will go away. It won’t.

Q: What are some basic renters’ rights?
A: Tenants have the right to live in a place that is habitable. They have the right to live in a sound structure, free of vermin and pollutants, with working doors/locks and working utilities. A landlord can never shut off utilities under any circumstance.

Q: What are some of the illegal tactics that landlords do?
A: Landlords not making repairs to the property. Turning the power off or making the property conditions so unlivable so tenants are basically forced to leave. Failing to give proper notice about a rental increase is also illegal. According to law, a landlord must give tenants 30 to 60 days’ notice about any increase in rent. Another illegal tactic is to file a lawsuit but never serve the tenant. The suit goes before court and if the tenants don’t show, they are put into default, a status that can be noted on their credit report for 10 years.

Q: How can some evictions be avoided?
A: The best way is for tenants to be polite and courteous even if the landlords are rude. Document everything in writing; after a phone call, summarize the content in text or an email. Do everything reasonable. Also, don’t let problems fester. If you see a bug infestation, tell the landlord right away. Don’t wait for a couple of weeks until it gets unbearable.

It’s critical for renters to know the law but so many tenants don’t take the time to understand. Right now, with all the gentrification going on, it’s the tenants’ responsibility to educate themselves about their legal rights. The Department of Consumer Affairs and the LA Courts are good resources to start with – however, they don’t walk people through the whole process, “You’ll do this first,” “Then you do this,” etc. Legal Aid can help those who can’t afford lawyers, but they only go so far. It’s really up to the individual to learn about and fight for their specific rights.

The Renters’ Rights Workshop will be held on Monday, June 19 from 7 pm – 9pm at Sycamore Park Foursquare Church, 4328 N. Figueroa St, Los Angeles. This free workshop is sponsored by the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC). For more information, visit angelamcardle.com.

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  1. What about landlord rights? I’ve been a landlord several times and have mostly had good tenants. But, I have had a few who trahed my property or stopped paying rent and it took a long time to evict them. It is almost impossible to collect anything they owe you.

    • i really resent this landlord as victim narrative – landlords can generally afford lawyers, tenants can’t. landlords can hire property managers, tenant’s can’t.

      is it difficult to evict somebody in LA? it is! and it absolutely should be. in an eviction battle, a tenant is fighting for their home, a landlord for their investment. maybe it’s difficult to evict tenants because one of those things is more important?

      • Kermut, Get your head out of the mud dude. Renters have an obligation as much as landlords do. No One is more important in the equation. Renters need to understand that the vast majority of landlords in NELA are mom and pop landlords who own properties that are 4 units or less because the big investment groups aren’t interested in the small yields these properties offer.

        Landlords use the renter’s payment to pay the mortgage, insurance, water, sewer and maintenance/repairs on the property. For those who think this is a formula for great riches, think again. And if you are unfortunate enough to have a deadbeat tenant, it could single handedly force you to loose the property.

        I’ll never understand how skewed renters’ understandings of how owning property really works. It seems most of you think that we all were “gifted” these properties and own them free and clear. There is also no consideration to how year over year EVERYTHING gets more costly and thus we have to be able to adjust the rent to help shoulder this burden. It seems everyone understands inflation when it comes to a loaf of bread or a big Mac, but the landlord is “just being greedy” when he raises the rent. “How dare they expect me to pay my rent on time!”

        Renters, does your employer pay you consistently and when you expect it? Do you expect to be payed the same amour while everything around you gets more expensive? Just consider these things about your landlord’s position.

        • nobody said anything about obligations. i’m actually a property manager, i know a good deal about what it’s like to go thru an eviction – we’ve done it several times in my building. i’m constantly serving notices for late payment, repairs, the whole deal. it’s super possible i know more about the day to day of managing a rental unit than you do. or not! it doesn’t matter.

          for a landlord, a rental unit is investment. it’s a thing you put money into in hopes you’ll make more money. is it reasonable to rely on that money? maybe! if i were rich enough to own property, i’d also be smart enough to save enough so i’d have a cushion for evictions.

          for a tenant, a rental unit is literally their home. an eviction can uproot a family, put people on the street.

          i’m not saying a landlord’s needs are inconsequential, they aren’t. losing income is important, but losing your home is more important. it’s the same reason why a foreclosure process takes months. the city of LA has made a totally sound value judgment in making evictions as difficult as they are.

          • Kermut, you don’t apply your logic fully. To apply it fully “is it reasonable (for a landlord) to rely on that money?” you need to realize the landlord could be financing their own housing with the income from rental properties, as I do. In this scenario, because I have a renter trying to assert his housing is a right and unfairly delaying an eviction, my ability to afford housing is also at risk. And in this scenario since I own the property(s) and have my housing at risk I think I should clearly have more rights than a person that is renting from me and not complying with his/her obligations as a tenant (whether it’s not paying, refusing rent increase, etc). I realize not all landlords are in my situation but can you agree that in my case my renters should not be able to have more rights than I do?

  2. A misunderstanding is that you can just ignore eviction notices? People really think that?

  3. I’ve been a landlord for several years. The best decision I ever made was to have a professional manager handle my units for me. It’s always best to protect yourself and offer tenants the service they deserve by having a professional do the job who is unemotional and detached from the situation. I should be a celebrity sponsor for their trade association.

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