LA city council votes to regulate 'vanlords' who rent RVs to the homeless

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a measure to regulate the leasing of RVs in an effort to crack down on so-called “vanlords” who rent them to the homeless.

The council voted 12 to 0 in favor of the measure, which seeks to 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.

It also adds 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.

The measure creates 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 oversized 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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