LA City Council Expected to Discuss Ending COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium

Eviction notice on door of house

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The City Council is set to discuss ending long- standing renter eviction protections due to COVID-19 hardship in Los Angeles at its meeting Tuesday.

For the past few months, council members have grappled with arguments from both tenants and mom-and-pop landlords. Housing groups believe ending the moratorium would place thousands of families impacted by the pandemic into limbo, while landlords claim that current conditions are different from those at the onset of the pandemic and renters should no longer be able to use COVID- 19 hardship as a reason to eschew paying rent.

After the council's Housing Committee deadlocked on sending any recommendations, a second committee chaired by Council President Nury Martinez - - the Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment -- recommended 4-0 that the moratorium end on Jan. 31, a one-month extension from the Housing Department's recommendations.

"We consider our moratorium to be one of the strongest tenant protections in the country, and we've kept these protections in place for longer than almost any other municipality in the state," Council President Nury Martinez said at the meeting. "We must put in place long-term protections for our tenants while still preserving the economic well-being of our small mom- and-pop landlords."

If the second committee's recommendations are approved by the council, tenants who have missed payments since March 2020 would have to meet two re- payment deadlines. Under state law, they would have until Aug. 1, 2023, to pay back missed rent between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Under the city's moratorium, tenants would have until Feb. 1, 2024, to re-pay rent accumulated from Oct. 1, 2021 to Feb. 1, 2023.

Landlords would be able to resume increasing rent on rent-controlled apartments, which account for three-quarters of apartments in Los Angeles, beginning in February 2024.

The city would provide relocation assistance for all evictions deemed no-fault evictions and protections against no-fault evictions for unauthorized pets for an additional year.

Another recommendation from the committee would implement universal just cause rules, requiring specific reasons for landlords to evict tenants in all units, not just those under rent control.

Councilman Mike Bonin said on Monday that if the council ends the moratorium, it would be "based on a false narrative, being artfully spun by corporate landlords and their supporters."

"During COVID, taking in a relative, adding a roommate to help with rent or getting a pet was legal," Bonin said on Twitter. "Under the new rules, those family members and pets can get you evicted. That's cruel. Instead of stopping family separation, council leadership wants to delay it for a year."

Bonin called on the council to implement permanent renter protections before repealing pandemic-era protections. He claimed that most rental units in the city are owned by corporations, not small landlords.

"Despite the reality, the political discourse makes it sound like renters are a tiny special interest trying to rip off small landlords," Bonin said. "Corporate landlords push this narrative, which frames every policy debate as a war between tenants and small landlords."

That narrative leads to policy that harms tenants and drives up homelessness, according to Bonin.

Audre Lopez-King, a small rental property owner, said at a July news briefing at City Hall that her income is now a quarter of what she would make without the moratorium because tenants are not paying rent and abusing the system.

"Policymakers focus on tenant voting numbers and corporate interests, and they ignore the social contributions and rights of mom-and-pop landlords," Lopez-King said. "We are forced to bear the cost of tenant cost issues and the city's homelessness crisis."

Jeff Faller, president of the Apartment Owners Association of California, told City News Service in July that tenant rights groups want to paint landlords as villains.

"We want to paint a wholesome picture," Faller said. "If you think about it, down the middle, you have tenants that are good and housing providers that are good. You have tenants that are bad and housing providers that are bad."

Advocates of renter protections, including the Keep LA Housed Coalition, will hold a rally outside City Hall ahead of the meeting Tuesday. They argue that the moratorium has kept tens of thousands of residents in their homes and prevented mass displacement during a public health crisis.

Among the protections the coalition is seeking are: protections against evictions for tenants who are struggling to pay rent, a right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings, a cap on rent increase for rent- stabilized units and relocation assistance for displacement due to large rent increases.

"There is enough on both sides here for people to be unhappy with," Councilman Gil Cedillo said at the committee meeting. "This is probably the best deal that we could put together."

Cedillo added the challenge that confronts the council is "how do we walk away from this pandemic?"

"It's unknowing. It will be difficult. It will not be precise or exact," Cedillo said. "But we have to be as nuanced as we can be, as thoughtful as we can be. It's broad brushed, but we have to pay attention to the corners, the details, because not one size fits all."

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