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LOS ANGELES-A bill that would make it illegal for California’s commercial landlords to charge up-front “key money” from tenants who need space has been passed by the Legislature and sent to Governor Gray Davis for approval.

The measure was authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles). It would subject landlords to treble damages and other civil penalties for trying to collect key money or other payments that are not included in a tenant’s proposed lease documents.

Cedillo introduced the measure after several businesses in LA’s bustling fashion district complained that they are often forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in upfront cash before they are allowed to move into even the smallest of spaces. In some cases, the fees also have been charged to tenants who simply want to renew their existing leases.

Though charging key money is a common practice in some other parts of the nation, it is relatively new to California. And while Cedillo’s bill grew out of the fashion district’s controversy, it would apply to all commercial landlords in the state.

Davis is expected to sign the measure within the next few days.

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