A Section 8 housing tenant can only be evicted for ‘good cause’

There was a recent court decision concerning Section 8 housing. A tenant rented a house and received federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments. The rental was also located in Los Angeles which has a local rent ordinance. The tenant began renting the home in 2003 and lived there without any rent problems for seven years.

In 2010, the landlord served the tenant with a 90-day notice terminating her lease. The tenant’s lease was being terminated for “good cause” because of “business and economic reasons.” The landlord did not want to deal with the Section 8 paperwork requirements, among other alleged problems regarding the federal payments. The tenant did not leave. The landlord then gave the tenant a 3-day notice to pay at the full monthly rent of $950 or quit. The tenant attempted to pay only her share of the rent, but it was refused. The landlord also returned the Section 8 share of the rent that automatically had been put into the landlord’s bank account. The landlord then filed an unlawful detainer (an eviction action) against the tenant.

The case was tried before a judge. The judge ruled that the landlord’s reason for terminating the tenancy based “business and economic reasons” did not fall within the just cause reasons for evictions under the Los Angeles rent ordinance. The landlord appealed. In its decision, the court agreed federal regulations, which control Section 8, had a lower protection level against evictions. But local laws can provide greater protection. Under the Los Angeles rent ordinance, the landlord’s reason for giving the tenant a 90-day notice was inadequate. Thus, the landlord failed to properly terminate the tenancy. This case can be helpful in jurisdictions that have rent control such as San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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