SAJE Wins Stronger Code Enforcement for Unincorporated L.A. County


By Oscar Zarate, Director, Organizing and Advocacy, Building Equity and Transit

April 16, 2024

Nearly five years ago, tired of dealing with L.A. County’s broken code-enforcement system, SAJE members voted to campaign for a stronger one. Tenant members and leaders had identified multiple problems with the existing system, including the fact it was housed under two separate agencies, creating confusion about where to file complaints. As a result, households were living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for months as they struggled to navigate the system and find the appropriate assistance. The system also had an ineffective proactive inspection program–annually, only 10% of rental units in unincorporated areas received inspections–and did little to hold violators accountable.

SAJE quickly got to work, researching best practices for code enforcement and holding discussions with our members to strategize ways we could improve the system. In April 2021, SAJE submitted a memo to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors outlining the problems with the current system and recommending a comprehensive set of fixes. A year later, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell used SAJE’s recommendations to introduce a motion to establish a Rental Housing Habitability Ordinance, directing agencies to convene a working group to develop this new code enforcement system. 

In a huge victory for renters all over Los Angeles County, on April 16, 2024, the new code enforcement system, known as the Rental Housing Habitability Program (RHHP), was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. The system will include a host of improvements that came directly from SAJE members, including:

  • Centralizing code enforcement for rental units under a single program
  • Implementing a proactive inspection program that reaches more rental units
  • Adopting a Rent Escrow Account Program to motivate compliance and hold landlords accountable for not making repairs
  • Levying fines and administrative fees for re-inspections and instances of habitual noncompliance
  • Mandating stronger notice requirements so tenants are aware of upcoming inspections and their rights to dignified housing

The Rental Housing Habitability Ordinance is the culmination of years of hard work for SAJE’s tenant leaders and members, whose perspectives and advocacy got us to this moment. SAJE’s push to get the ordinance passed illustrates our approach to addressing economic justice issues: we empower community members to identify problems and pose solutions, and then we craft sensible public policy to make those solutions a reality.