Just Cause Evictions

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Grounds for Just-Cause Eviction Under the Ordinance

Nearly all residential units in the City of West Hollywood are covered by the eviction section of the Ordinance, whether the units are rent-stabilized or not. The Ordinance restricts tenant evictions to certain causes and just cause must be the dominant motive for any eviction actions other than terminations that meet the requirements for relocating tenants in the City of West Hollywood.

Landlords must serve tenants written notice which states the specific grounds for the termination of tenancy in detail and recites the subsection of Section 17.52.010 of the Ordinance that gives cause for the termination. The landlord must file with the Department a copy of the notice and any summons and complaint within 5 days after filing for unlawful detainer.

If the landlord tries to terminate tenancy in response to the tenant exercising rights under this Ordinance within the last 6 months and the tenant has not failed to pay rent, there is a rebuttable presumption that the eviction is retaliatory. Such action by the landlord may also cause the Department to open an harassment case. Such an investigation could lead to criminal prosecution.

In any action of the landlord to recover possession of a unit, if the tenant's defense succeeds, the tenant is entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

Read the subsections of the Ordinance governing noticing requirements and legal defenses: §17.52.020 and §17.52.080 [PDF].

The procedures for eviction are those required by the California Code of Civil Procedure and the Calfornia Civil Code. Landlords and tenants who are not acquainted with these requirements, are advised to contact legal counsel when filing for or defending against an eviction.

Tenants need to be aware that they do not receive a hearing to defend themselves automatically. When they receive the summons and complaint, they must respond to it at the court listed on it within the noticing period. If tenants do not respond, the landlord will obtain a default judgement with which they can obtain possesion of the unit and have the tenant vacate it.

Tenants who have rent-paying roommates should be warned: you are subject to the same limits on asking your roommate to leave as your landlord's limits on terminating your tenancy. If you are considering having a roommate, be sure to screen roommates carefully and establish written terms of tenancy before they move-in.

Nonpayment of Rent 17.52.010(1)

The tenant has failed to pay a legal rent. A landlord may not demand, accept or retain rent for a unit exceeding the Maximum Allowable Rent for the unit or impose a rent increase for a rental unit except for those allowed under the Ordinance. 

Violation of Obligation of Tenancy 17.52.010(2)

The tenant has violated some term or obligation of tenancy. The term or obligation of tenancy must have been established in writing at the time the tenancy began. The landlord must have provided the tenant with the written terms and conditions of tenancy before the alleged violation occurred.

Generally, the landlord may not change the terms and conditions after the initial written agreement without the tenant agreeing to the change in writing. The landlord may only enforce unilateral changes in terms and conditions by terminating or refusing to renew the tenancy if:

  1. the change was a legal increase in the amount of rent;
  2. the notice concerns noise, failure to control pets or other similar conduct that disturbs the other tenants' quiet enjoyment of the propery;
  3. an authorized governmental enforcement agency has ordered the change to correct a code violation and the written notice to correct was attached to the landlord's notice of change in terms of tenancy supplied to the tenant; OR
  4. the landlord's insurance company has threatened to withdraw or cancel coverage within the conditions of the insurance policy due to health or safety issues on the premises and the landlord has attached a copy of the company's notice to the change of terms notice given to the tenant.

Certain terms are not grounds for termination under the Ordinance:

  1. a tenant does not move out at the end of a lease or other term. The unit goes month-to-month at the end of the term unless the landlord gives proper notice to renew the lease term (see below 17.52.010(6) for refusal to renew a lease);
  2. the tenant refuses to pay rent in excess of the Maximum Allowable Rent;
  3. one person in addition to those permitted in the lease may live with a tenant if it is their spouse, registered domestic partner, child or grandchild (by blood or adoption), parent, grandparent, brother or sister. If a tenant has a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc) during tenancy, the children from this same birth may occupy the unit in excess of the permitted occupants. The tenant must notify the landlord in writing about the additional person and state the nature of the relationship;
  4. one person in addition to the lease who provides necessary full-time live in medical assistance to the tenant if a licensed physician certifies the need for it;
  5. seniors, persons living with disabilities or with HIV/AIDS may possess two or fewer pets under certain conditions (for more information, click here);

Surviving Tenant 17.52.010(3)

The spouse, registered domestic partner, relative in addition to the lease allowed under Section 17.52.010(2),does not acquire any tenancy rights or claim to stay in the unitwhen the tenant on the leasemoves out unless:

  • the additional person has lived in the unit for at least one year; and
  • the tenant has died or become incapacitated as reason for leaving the unit.

If this is the case, the spouse/domestic partner/relative assumes the rights and responsibilities of the tenant's lease.

Otherwise, the additional person will have to move out or may be treated by the landlord as a new tenant. The landlord will be able to set the initial rent, require background checks, new lease, security deposit, etc. if they allow the person to stay.

Full-time medical assistants allowed under Section 17.52.010(2) have no protection from eviction under this Ordinance and the landlord may require that they leave when the tenant moves out.

Nuisance 17.52.010(4)

Tenants who are causing a nuisance on the property or are allowing members of their household, guests or pets to commit nuisances. Landlords may also evict tenants for this cause if they, their household, guests or pets are damaging the rental unit, fixtures in it or the common areas. Tenants, their household, guests, or pets may also not interfere unreasonably with the comfort, safety or enjoyment of other residents on a property.

If neighbors' pets are causing problems for the rest of the tenants, tenants may contact various agencies about issues such as noise, animal waste, etc. (For more information, click here). If the neighbor does not correct the problems, then the tenants should speak to the landlord about dealing with nuisance behavior.

Tenants whose neighbors are disturbing the other residents of the property, should try to talk to the neighbor. If this doesn't help, they should call Dispute Resolution Services at (323) 876-2747, to see if a mediator can help resolve the problems. If this does not achieve a resolution, the tenants should contact the landlord and ask the landlord to deal with the issues. Tenants who complain to the landlord should realize that the landlord will need evidence and possibly testimony from them if s/he cannot resolve the problem with the neighbor and has to take the neighbor to court.

Illegal Use of the Rental Unit 17.52.010(5)

Generally, this section applies to the tenant using the property or permitting use of the property for purposes such as drug dealing, stolen goods, prostitution or other alleged criminal offenses. Landlords should speak with private counsel about evicting tenants under this subsection of the Ordinance with regard to evidence required to prove such alleged illegal use before a verdict has been reached in a criminal court.

Tenants should know to correct violations of Building and Safety, Fire, Health and Property Maintenance Codes once an authorized government agency has issued a notice to correct if the notice orders the removal or repair of tenants' possessions. For instance, if a landlord receives a notice to remove an inoperative vehicle in view of the right-of-way and the tenant who is storing the vehicle refuses to remove it, the landlord may have cause to evict the tenant under this subsection.

Landlords may not terminate a tenancy if the tenant is operating a home occupation allowed under the City's Zoning and Business License Ordinances. If the home occupation requires any administrative permit or license, the landlord must give the tenant reasonable time to obtain the permit or license.

Refusal to Renew Lease 17.52.010(6)

Tenants are only required to renew a lease if:

  • the tenant had a written lease or rental agreement with a termination date;
  • the landlord gave written notice requesting that the tenant execute and extension or renewal of the agreement within the noticing period required by the lease or state law before the term expired;
  • the term of the renewal must be of like duration with similar provisions as the existing lease (the rent can be increased by the legal amount); and
  • the renewal's or extension's terms must be consistent with or comply with any provisions of the Ordinance.

Refusal to Provide Access 17.52.010(7)

A landlord may give reasonable writtennotice under California Civil Code Section 1954 to enter a unit whether a tenant is home or not. The landlord may only enter the unit without such notice if there is an emergency or the tenant has moved out or abandoned the unit. The landlord can generally give notice for business hours, Monday to Friday, but leases and rental agreements may expand these hours to weekends. A tenant should check their lease or rental agreement to make sure whether such an expansion exists before refusing access to the landlord because the landlord is requesting access outside "business hours."

The landlord may request access:

  • to make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements;
  • to show the unit to prospective tenants, buyers, lenders, contractors or workers who are to do work;
  • to enter with permission of a court order

Tenants should be careful if landlords are requesting reasonable entry for a person related to the explicitly permitted reasons to enter. For example, if the landlord needs to show an insurer damage to get funding for repairs or insurance is required by a lender, the landlord can probably gain entry for an insurance company representative.

If a landlord has given tenants written notice that the building is for sale and a real estate agent will be showing it, the agent may contact the tenants by telephone to give reasonable notice that they will be showing the unit. Twenty-four hours is generally considered reasonble notice. Access to show the unit is limited to no more than 4 hours in any given day. 

Subtenant 17.52.010(8)

The person in possession of the unit is a subtenant who is not permitted by written conditions of tenancy to occupy the unit other than an additional occupant allowed under 17.52.010(2).

Resident Manager or Employee 17.52.010(9)

A resident manager or other employee may be required to leave only if:

  • they were not a tenant on the property prior to taking the position;
  • they received their unit as part of or as a condition of their employment; and
  • their employment has been terminated.

Persons who were tenants on the property prior to taking a position with the landlord, may not be required to vacate because their employment ends.

Temporary Absence from Principal Residence 17.52.010(11)

An owner or tenant is going to leave their primary place of residence temporarily for a sabbatical, extended vacation or other temporary absence. They sign a lease with (sub)tenants stating the reason for the absence and the date upon which they intend to move back into the unit. If the (sub)tenants who are party to this lease do not vacate on the date that the lessor is moving back into the unit, the lessor may terminate the tenancy.

Tenants who wish to sublet their unit during a temporary absence should check their lease carefully. This section does not give them the right to sublease if there are any restrictions on subleasing, who or number of persons may occupy the unit. If subleasing would violate the lease or rental agreement signed at the tenancy's start, the tenant must obtain written permission from the landlord prior to doing this. Tenants should also inform landlord's of their intent in any case so that disputes may be settled before the tenant leaves the city.

Refer to the language of Section 17.52.010 of the Ordinance.

You may also contact the Rent Stabilization and Housing Division during normal business hours: Monday to Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday's, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Our phone number is (323) 848-6450. Our office is located on the First Floor at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard.

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