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Being a landlord in Los Angeles, CA is no easy task.  Managing multiple units may cause a landlord to decide to get out of business instead under the Ellis Act. 

Take the case of West Hollywood landlord Anna Kihagi who violated the Ellis Act and has been ordered to serve five days in Los Angeles County Jail and pay the city’s attorney fees back in early 2017. 

The Ellis Act is a California state law that allows landlords’ unconditional right to evict tenants to get out of business and take out all apartment units in the building off the rental market. The reasons landlords may take this route is when they decide their family members use the apartment units, convert the apartments to condos, or convert them into single-family homes.   

Kihagi attempted to use the Ellis Act to terminate all leases in her Los Angeles apartment building. But violated it when a tenant at the time noticed Kihagi re-renting a unit in the building to a new tenant after previously evicting them under the Ellis Act. 

When the tenant informed the city, Kihagi retaliated by cutting off his electricity and hot water. Continuous violation of the Ellis Act in her Los Angeles and San Francisco apartment led to multiple lawsuits and fines. 

We actually covered Kihagi’s lawsuit in San Francisco after being charged with a $3.5 Million judgment back in 2017. Kihagi goes under the radar by listing herself under different names such as Ana Swain and Ann Swain, according to the Anti Eviction Map, a website that tracks alleged illegal evictions.

How to Avoid Wrongful Evictions?

If you are a landlord and looking to boot out your current renters, you need a clear reason that is justifiable in court. You also need to fully understand the Ellis Act and how it works so you adhere to its due process without causing distress to your renters. 

Under the law, landlords are required to go through these processes:

  • File a Notice of Intent with the Rent Board to withdraw all units from the rental market
  • Terminate all tenancies in the building. A landlord cannot be selective on certain units only
  • Provide a 120-day eviction notice to all renters. If there are senior citizens or disabled renters, they must be given one year’s notice.
  • Eviction notices and Notice of Intent to Withdraw must be within the same timeline and preferably filed at the same time. If the latter is filed five days later, then the total effective days of the eviction notice will be 125 days.
  • Within 15 days of intent, the landlord will inform the renters of their relocation and re-occupancy rights
  • Go to the County Recorder to record a summary of the Notice of Intent and issued eviction notices
  • The building or rental units are officially removed from the rental market once the notices reached their due date

Instead of evictions, we recommend landlords to negotiate with tenants as much as possible, such as paying them to move out instead of filing for eviction.

Related: What Landlords Need to Know About Rent Control in San Francisco

Also Read: Renting vs. Buying A Home In Los Angeles

With an eviction, you need to provide proper notice and allow your tenants a certain number of days to pay or quit. This varies from state to state, but it is typically 120 days, or 1 year if there is a senior citizen or disabled renter. After this notice period passes, you can then terminate the lease due to noncompliance.

What Can I Do About an Eviction If I’m a Tenant?

We recommend documenting all communication with your landlord. Make sure to keep phone records, emails, notices, and have your word written down. If this escalates to a lawsuit, you will need tangible evidence to present in court. 

If you intend to record your phone conversations with your landlord, be sure to let them know they are documented for their own protection. In some states, such as California, it is illegal to record a conversation with another person without their consent. 

If one tenant can claim a valid defense in a court of law, then the entire eviction is rejected for the entire building and is prevented from withdrawing all of the units. 

Likewise, as a renter, it pays to know your rights during eviction.

Both landlords and tenants have rights under the Ellis Act. While it helps the landlords get their property back, it impacts the renters in a negative way because of being displaced. To avoid both landlords and renters from getting into court while the Ellis Act is enforced, we strongly recommend that they seek legal advice so both can duly exercise their rights under the law.

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