LA City Council votes to end city’s long-standing COVID eviction moratorium

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The long-standing eviction protection for tenants in Los Angeles due to the COVID-19 severity will be lifted at the end of January, the city council unanimously decided on Tuesday.

The council voted 12-0 to accept a package of recommendations from a council committee, after a lively public comment session in which both tenants advocated continued protections and large landlords advocated an end to restrictions.

A NOTICE: The above video is from a previous report on the city’s COVID eviction moratorium.

Under the council’s measure, landlords will be able to resume rent increases for rent-controlled housing, which accounts for three-quarters of Los Angeles units, beginning in February 2024.

Council President Nury Martinez called the vote a compromise that “preserves the livelihoods of our tenants while moving from COVID-era protection to permanent tenant protection.”

“We can’t let that burden fall to one side, whether it’s the tenants or the mom and pop landlords,” Martinez said of the streets. Now is the time for us not only to keep people off the streets, but also to protect people’s homes and maintain their financial well-being.”

Over the past few months, Council members have been grappling with both of these sides. Housing groups believe the end of the moratorium will leave thousands of families affected by the pandemic in limbo, while landlords claim current conditions are different than when the pandemic began and renters should no longer be able to to use the harshness of COVID-19 as a reason to forgo rent payments.

Renters who have missed payments since March 2020 must meet two repayment deadlines. Under state law, they have until August 1, 2023 to pay back the lost rent between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. According to the city moratorium, tenants have until February 1, 2024 to repay the rent Rent cumulative from 10/01/2021 to 02/01/2023.

The council voted to consider introducing universal just cause rules, which would require specific reasons for landlords to evict tenants in all units, not just those under rent control. It also supported the provision of relocation assistance for all evictions deemed to be evictions through no fault of their own.

Renters also cannot be subjected to a no-fault eviction for unauthorized pets until January 31, 2024. Other tenant protection plans were noted as “feedback,” with several council members urging the city to enact those protections before the moratorium expires next year.

Councilor Mike Bonin was absent from the meeting, while Councilors Curren Price and Paul Krekorian withdrew from the item because they own property. Councilor Nithya Raman’s amendments to extend the moratorium to February 28 and Councilor John Lee’s to allow rent increases for rent-controlled units immediately failed.

Tenant protection advocates, including the Keep LA Housed Coalition, held a rally outside City Hall ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. Its members argued that the moratorium kept tens of thousands of residents in their homes and prevented mass displacement during a public health crisis.

Carla De Paz, chief organizer at the Community Power Collective, said low-income workers and people of color are feeling the brunt of the pandemic.

“We’re still recovering,” De Paz said. “We’re still in an emergency. We know that. We live that every day. Our city, our government wants to ignore the fact that people are still fighting. But we know we’re still fighting.”

Maria Briones, a street vendor who lives in District 8, said she contracted COVID-19 for six months last year and defaulted on rent. According to Briones, her landlord tried to evict her, took her to court three times and cut her electricity during the recent heatwave.

“I couldn’t sleep because the power was off,” Briones said. “I couldn’t turn on my fan. That’s not right and that’s not human. We were treated like animals.”

Ending the moratorium without first putting in place permanent safeguards would be “reckless and inhumane,” said Faizah Malik, a senior attorney for the prosecutor’s office.

“There should be no gaps in protecting tenants,” Malik said. “We cannot return to a pre-pandemic world of tens of thousands of evictions, rising rent burdens, rising homelessness and a worsening housing shortage.”

Fred Sutton, senior vice president of local public affairs for the California Apartment Association, said council landlords “should not be compelled to provide the service of uncompensated housing,” noting that “conditions in 2020 are vastly different than they are today”. ‘

Sutton was hissed and booed by the crowd, prompting a warning from Martinez.

“Rental providers are not in the eviction business,” Sutton said. “But evictions are sadly necessary and often a unique tool to resolve the most disruptive of situations or when someone is not compensated.”

A property owner posing as Wayne Harris told the council landlords should not be blamed for the pandemic. Harris said if the council wants to continue the moratorium, it should also find a way to compensate landlords, noting that landlords could also get COVID-19 and be at risk of homelessness.

“What makes you think we’re different from the renters?” Harris said. “You guys keep building this thing. How do you sleep at night?”

Agouram Abdelmajid, who has been a real estate manager in Los Angeles for 15 years, said he supports expanding eviction protections. Abdelmajid said he was forced by landlords to carry out evictions “just because the landlord didn’t like the tenant.” According to Abdelmajid, without lasting protection, the harm to tenants outweighed the potential harm to landlords.

“For landlords, it’s purely a business transaction,” said Abdelmajid. “But for tenants and the homeless, life is at stake.”

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

Copyright © 2022 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved.

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