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Housing Policy • October 10, 2009

Appeals court sides with tenants

Appeals court sides with tenants

October 10, 2009 |  4:24 pm

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of a group of tenants in Echo Park who were entangled in a legal battle with their complex’s owner, who wanted to raise rents and issued eviction notices to the group.

At issue was whether Los Angeles landlords, whose buildings are subject to the city’s rent control laws, can opt out of a federal program that subsidizes rent for low-income tenants.

The  appeals court,  which issued the ruling Friday, upheld the decision of a district court and said “the eviction notices are invalid for failure to comply with LARSO (Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance).”

“LARSO is not preempted by HUD’s ‘good cause’ regulation because HUD did not intend to preempt local eviction controls,” the decision read.

The complex, co-owned by UCLA real estate instructor Eric Sussman and several partners, issued eviction notices to 22 families in 2006. Sussman and his lawyer had thought that owners had a right to opt out of the federal rent subsidy program.

“It’s a tremendous victory for the tenants that we’ve been working for in Echo Park,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Economic Survival. “We’re pretty ecstatic about this ruling,” Gross said. He added that the decision could have national implications for low-income tenants.

In 2007, the tenants showed up outside Sussman’s UCLA classroom holding picket signs as the professor gave his lecture. They wore bright red T-shirts, chanted “shame on you” and carried a letter asking UCLA’s chancellor to review the professor’s business practices.

At the time, Sussman said he thought it was inappropriate for the tenants to attempt to “harass and intimidate” him. He could not be reached for comment Saturday.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz

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