L.A. City Council backs effort to regulate 'vanlords' who rent RVs to homeless people

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Campers are parked along West Jefferson Blvd as Scott Culbertson, executive director of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands gives a tour of some of the destruction caused by homeless encampments that are encroaching on the Freshwater Marsh in Ballona Wetlands. Play Del Rey on Friday, June 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times).
Recreational vehicles line a street in Playa Del Rey in June 2021. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

For the record:
6:55 p.m. Aug. 29, 2023: A previous version of this article said that the City Council approved a measure to regulate “vanlords.” The measure directs the city attorney to draft an ordinance creating the regulations but it has not yet voted on those regulations.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday backed an effort to regulate the leasing of RVs and crack down on so-called vanlords who rent them to homeless people.

The council voted 12 to 0 in favor of directing the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would amend city code to include RVs among the types of vehicles that people are prohibited from leasing and renting while parked on public streets and other public spaces.

The ordinance would also add a requirement to city code that RV landlords comply with "relevant state and federal laws as it relates to the sale and lease of RVs." State law requires RVs leased or rented in California to meet design and safety standards of the American National Standards Institute and the National Fire Protection Assn. And it would create an escalating system of fines for owners who violate the rules.

The annual homeless count last year showed that across Los Angeles there were nearly 6,500 people living in 4,000 RVs, a 40% increase since 2018.

People who reside in RVs often say the vehicles are their only option to avoid living on the street during a housing crisis, and landlords say they are providing a necessary service to help them. Supporters of the motion argued that it was necessary to impose rules on a growing business that has gone largely unregulated.

The resolution was adopted without comment from the council on Tuesday. Councilmember Traci Park, who introduced the motion, said in an interview earlier in the year that she learned from visiting RV encampments about a “thriving trade in the rentals of vans and RVs as dwelling units.”

“As a city, we put a lot of regulation on our housing market. Landlords in the city of Los Angeles are required to comply with extensive obligations to provide safe and habitable housing," Park said. "Yet we have these unscrupulous vanlords who purchase, in many cases, dilapidated, inoperable and oftentimes unsafe RVs and vans that they are in turn using as dwelling units for vulnerable members of the community."

An amendment introduced by Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez asks the city attorney to report back on the possibility of including a requirement that individuals who illegally rent out RVs be required to pay relocation expenses for their tenants.

Also on Tuesday, Park introduced a separate motion seeking to explore the possibility of creating a program that would restrict living in RVs and other oversize vehicles in residential areas, commercial corridors and other "sensitive" areas while also designating certain streets where such vehicles will be allowed and where residents would have access to services like showers, bathrooms, and waste disposal.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.