After Los Angeles County lifted its eviction moratorium on March 31, a slew of eviction notices were posted throughout Burbank, advising tenants that they had 60 days to relocate or risk facing legal recourse.
A loophole in state rent control law allowed local landlords to evict dozens of Burbank renters in April, as long as owners had an “intent” to renovate the property. Under state law, it is legal for owners to serve eviction notices in order to make repairs, a method often used to raise the rent higher than the legal cap of 10%, chipping away at the city’s already meager supply of affordable housing. The city has no method to verify if such renovations ever take place.
Residents from at least four buildings — one 40-unit building located on Olive Avenue, and two smaller buildings located on Tujunga Boulevard and Lincoln Street — received the notices that they would be pushed out of their homes.
Many tenants are elderly, some have health issues and others do not have the cash reserves needed to secure new housing.
One Burbank couple, Deborah and Ricardo Juarez, are facing eviction after they moved into an eight-unit apartment complex on East Valencia Avenue in 2021. The two had a baby girl last October, who is now 6 months old. They came home to find an eviction notice taped to their door on April 19. The reason cited was “intent to remodel.”
“The previous tenants had been here for 20 years, so before we moved in, our apartment was redone pretty nicely. It’s got new floors, throughout. The cabinets in the kitchen are all brand-new; it [has] a brand-new countertop. Honestly, I don’t see the need for it to be redone at all,” Deborah Juarez told the Leader.
The law in question is Assembly Bill 1482, the state’s sweeping rent control measure that places caps on rent increases and creates protections from no-cause evictions. The section of the law that talks about “just-cause” evictions that is allowing for mass evictions statewide states that, in order to impose an eviction, landlords must be doing remodels that require a local permit.
A records request for the permits for the Valencia property showed that no permits have been filed with the city since 1999.
Now the Juarezes say they are being forced to look for comparable housing more than 15 miles away, in Encino.
Ricardo Juarez was born and raised in Burbank. He went to Bret Harte Elementary, then John Muir Middle School and then Burbank High School. Now, he says living in Burbank isn’t on the table for him and his family anymore.
“This eviction basically prices us out of not only the neighborhoods but out of the city into Encino or Van Nuys. Some of the places we are looking are places where I wouldn’t necessarily want to walk around with my baby in a stroller or in a carrier,” Ricardo said. The Juarezes said that the property owner, Jack Tabakian, a Glendale-based realtor, purchased the complex in late 2022. At that time, Tabakian told them and other tenants that he “had no intention of evicting and remodeling,” Deborah Juarez said.
Now, dozens of Burbank tenants are fighting the evictions, hoping for a chance to stay in their homes. Many attended a meeting in late April to ask the City Council to impose a moratorium on evictions, while others called for an investigation into the landlords of the three buildings.
“We need to do something as a city. We need to put some solutions on the table, because there’s a policy gap and people are hurting as a result,” Councilwoman Nikki Perez told the Leader.
“There’s not agreement on the loophole issue legally. There are some lawyers who feel that the law requires owners to substantially remodel. That means making literally any change that requires a permit from government agencies,” said Perez. “And then there are legal experts on the other side who interpret the law to mean you only need to have the intent to get a permit. So that’s a real gray area.”
Other cities in the region have closed the loophole through local resolutions. Nearby Glendale recently passed a resolution clarifying more specific requirements for renovation evictions.
“I think it really is up to municipalities to solve that, because at the end of the day, much like a lot of the state legislation that comes down to us, AB 1482 doesn’t come with enforcement,” Perez said. “It wasn’t intended to be an end all be all, rather a model that cities can use to then be tailored to their community’s needs.”
In the meantime, though, the city can only do so much to help tenants facing evictions now. City Attorney Joe McDougall warned the panel during the April City Council meeting that enacting a hasty eviction moratorium would draw the risk of litigation.
Aside from halting evictions, the city’s Landlord-Tenant Commission provides access to pro-bono legal services and is tasked with the responsibility of mediating disputes between landlords and tenants. Tenants, some of whom said they are days away from homelessness, fear it may not be enough.
“That’s haunting me in my sleep,” Perez told the Leader. “My fear is that the city really does turn around as an entity and say we can help you mediate through the Landlord-Tenant Commission, but at the end of the day, the law is very much on the side of the landlords.”
First published in the May 6 print issue of the Burbank Leader.