Learn More

Ellis Act Evictions

Variable Definitions:
Ellis Act Evictions: The number of units withdrawn in an area made through the Ellis Act, a 1985 California state law that allows landlords to evict residential tenants to “go out of the rental business”


Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD)

Years Available*:

Methodology Note:

The original data comes at the point level. Our team geocoded the locations to generate X/Y coordinates, then spatial joined each point to 2020 Census Tracts.

Why are these variables important to measure?

The Ellis Act is a California state law that gives landlords a legal opportunity to leave the rental market business and evict tenants. The ordinance was adopted in 1985 following the court case Nash v. City of Santa Monica, in which a landlord claimed that the city’s rent control law violated his right to go out of business. Although it was initially intended to be used by small “mom and pop” landlords as a last resort, the majority of Ellis Act evictions are used as speculation tools by real estate investors. Municipalities, such as the City of Los Angeles, can regulate the Ellis Act eviction process to some extent. In 2022, several cities in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, signed Assembly Bill 854 to curb a landlord’s ability to evict their tenants using the Ellis Act in rent-controlled jurisdictions. However, the bill was blocked by real estate influence.

Under the Ellis Act, a landlord must simultaneously evict the tenants and legally remove the building from the rental market. However, the Ellis Act does not prevent landlords from returning to the rental business after evicting its tenants; it only requires the landlords to pay a penalty depending on how long the property was vacant. If the apartments are allowed to be re-rented after the property comes back onto the market, the units must be kept at the same rent the evicted tenants paid for a five-year period. In conjunction with the Costa Hawkins Act, which resets rents to market rate when a rent controlled unit is vacated, landlords may evoke the Ellis Act, leave the rental units vacant for five years, then return to profitability when the units are allowed to come back to market rate.

If the units are to be re-rented within a ten-year period, evicted tenants are granted the “First Right to Return”, meaning that they must be offered the unit first and only charged the rent at the time of eviction for the first five years, followed by market rate rent for the next five years. The First Right to Return binds all current and future owners, even if the building is demolished and new units are constructed on the property. An exemption to this rule is if the units are converted to “ownership units” (e.g., condominiums), in which case the units may be re-rented at market rate without a waiting period or First Right to Return.

More than 27,000 rent-controlled units have been removed in Los Angeles since 2001 using the Ellis Act despite the city’s increasing need for affordable housing. Ellis evictions tend to be more common in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poor and minority renters, and evicted tenants are less likely to stay in their original city. Additionally, Black and Hispanic households are disproportionately harmed by lack of affordable rental units as they are more likely to be renters and have fewer savings.
Written by Gabriela Magaña


Asquith, B.J. (2022). What Happens to Residents Evicted under California‘s Ellis Act? [Policy brief]. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://research.upjohn.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1050&context=up_policybriefs

Bakker, J. (2005, October). Condominiums Conversions: They’re Back. League of California Cities. https://www.cacities.org/UploadedFiles/LeagueInternet/c5/c5e504c3-e261-4986-b983-c964db35d7c0.pdf

Ellis Act: State Law Restricting Change in Use of Rental Property. (n.d.). Law Offices of Stimmel, Stimmel, & Roeser. https://www.stimmel-law.com/en/articles/ellis-act-state-law-restricting-change-use-rental-property

Ellis Act Evictions. (n.d.). San Francisco Tenants Union. https://sftu.org/ellis/

Hall, M. (2023, September 13). Rent Control Board reminds landlords who evict tenants with the Ellis Act that they have to go out of business. Santa Monica Daily Presshttps://smdp.com/2023/09/13/rent-control-board-wants-landlords-who-evict-tentans-to-go-out-of-business-voluntarily/

McElroy, E. (2017, September 20). Mapping Ellis Act Evictions Throughout California. PBS SoCal. https://www.kcet.org/shows/city-rising/mapping-ellis-act-evictions-throughout-california

Minott, O., & Winkler, A. (2021). Understanding and Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing. Bipartisan Policy Center. https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/BPC_Racial-Disparities-Brief_RV2-3.pdf

Nelson, K., Gromis, A., Kauai, Y., & Lens, M.C. (2021). Spatial Concentration and Spillover: Eviction Dynamics in Neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California, 2005-2015. Housing Policy Debate, 31(3-5), 670-695. https://www-tandfonline-com.libproxy1.usc.edu/doi/full/10.1080/10511482.2020.1847163

Tobias, M. (2022, February 11). Why is a tenant protection bill failing in the California Legislature, again? CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/california-divide/evictions/2022/02/tenant-protection-california-legislature

Related Data Stories

Policy Areas

Close Menu