Apartment owners would normally be allowed to raise rent on July 1 by as much as 3 percent. Landlords owning less than five units would be exempt from the ban.
About 68 percent of the people in Los Angeles are renters, many in rent-controlled property.
During the four-month freeze on rents, the council will consider a new way of raising rents, tying it to the rate of inflation.
Renters say they desperately need the freeze because the economy is so bad, but landlords argue that they, too, are struggling.
"It's no good, it's stupid because, if you're going freeze renters, landlords' income, why not freeze that DWP rate increase?" said landlord Bill Hooey. "How can the city council in good faith raise our water rates, and then tell us, we're not entitled fair market value."