In theory, the Ellis Act is supposed to allow landlords to exit the rental business. In practice, it opens the door to hold badly needed rental units vacant for years (this is in fact an Ellis Act REQUIREMENT), displaces vulnerable renters, and is all too often abused.
Additionally, the Ellis Act is not, and has never been, necessary. Landlords who no longer wish to be landlords have always had the option of selling their rental properties with tenants in place (and there are buyers who are happy to "inherit" stable, long-term tenants).
I alone cannot adequately convey the damage the Ellis Act continues to cause. If you have a story that you feel comfortable sharing, please reach out (I will use a pseudonym for anyone who requests one).
The first story comes from Kevin Livingston:
I was Ellis Act evicted at the end of 2000. I paid about $550 for one side of a duplex with two bedrooms in Hancock Park-adjacent Hollywood. My landlady was 103 years old and her kids wanted to put her in a home and sell the duplex their grandparents bought in the 1940s. Their first move was a 30-day notice to leave despite being a model tenant who always paid his rent.
(Ed. note: California state law requires a minimum 60-day move-out notice for tenants who have lived in the same unit for one year or more. 30-day notices may only be given to tenants who have lived in the unit for under one year. Since Kevin had been living in the duplex for three years, the 30-day notice was a flagrant violation of state law. Also, in the event of new ownership or new management, leases are still legally binding. Always try to sign a new lease instead of going month-to-month if you plan to stay put.)
Because I didn't want to give up a place I treasured, I contacted the Coalition for Economic Survival and arranged for a lawyer to notify them that I couldn't be evicted according to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance that dictated the rules of our business arrangement. Next, they hired a lawyer who maneuvered the Ellis Act as a tool to remove us. My lawyer at that time felt this was a worrisome tool; she had not seen it used in this way before.
(Ed. note: I am not a lawyer - but the ongoing increase in Ellis Act evictions every year is alarming. It was still relatively low 23 years ago.)
It was contentious, with the housing, fire, and health departments citing the owners for violations and resulting in us withholding rent.
(Ed. note: I am not surprised that the owner's family allowed the duplex to fall into disrepair. Also, there are very strict guidelines for rent strikes, so please consult a lawyer before rent striking.)
Eventually, through the lawyers, after not paying rent for more than six months and after payment of $3,000 in relocation costs (the maximum amount allowed at that time), I agreed to leave and they removed the unit from the rental market. I kept an interest in what they did with the property and, from what I could tell, they never did re-rent it and did eventually sell it.
(Ed. note: In Los Angeles, homes emptied under the Ellis Act are legally not permitted to be re-rented for a minimum of five years and replacement units may be subject to rent control.)
The home was drastically remodeled and just a few years ago the remodeled home was removed and a huge multi-family dwelling of three stories was put on the spot.
(Ed. note: Well, THAT isn't surprising. RIP to that duplex. )