By BRENDA REES
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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