LA eviction moratorium withstands landlords’ legal challenge

Law does not excessively harm residential landlords, according to judge

Photo illustration of Mike Feuer, Daniel Yukelson and Judge Dean Pregerson (Getty, iStock)
Photo illustration of Mike Feuer, Daniel Yukelson and Judge Dean Pregerson (Getty, iStock)

Los Angeles’ eviction moratorium isn’t going anywhere, after a judge found no evidence of “irreparable harm” being done to landlords.

Federal judge Dean Pregerson on Friday denied the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles’s motion to enjoin a now eight-month-old eviction moratorium law.

L.A. landlords have been sounding the alarm bells that the moratorium is leading to revenue freefalls and triggering stand-offs with mortgage lenders.

But the judge dinged the Apartment Association for offering just a few anecdotal examples of financial hardship, and not one instance where a mortgage lender has foreclosed against a property due to the moratorium. Landlords have “demonstrated just possibility, not likelihood, they will lose homes to foreclosure,” Pregerson wrote.

Judge Pregerson also cited the $100 million Emergency Rental Assistance Program as one reason the City Council has not “simply thrown landlords to the wolves.”

City attorney Mike Feuer hailed the victory as enabling “thousands of tenants” to keep their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of L.A. cases and deaths are going up. Feuer also called on the federal government to provide assistance measures on top of the rent payment vouchers.

“The decision by the lower District Court is certainly disappointing,” said Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association. “We’ve always understood that this issue is a very difficult challenge” with so few legal precedents.

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Yukelson said that his group would appeal the ruling.

The ruling states that the stand-off between landlords and renters “is, but for the shooting, a war in every real sense. Hundreds of thousands of tenants pitted against tens of thousands of landlords — that is the tragedy that brings us here.”

With little precedent for an eviction moratorium, Pregerson leans on an 87-year-old Minnesota case that found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the courts found that Minnesota lawmakers were allowed to stop foreclosures, because of the extraordinary circumstances of the Great Depression.

“The current emergency is arguably more serious than that brought on by the Great Depression,” Pregerson wrote, given the “economic and public health catastrophe.”

The L.A. moratorium allows any renter to defer payments if their health or income was affected by the coronavirus. The measure is good for 12 months after whenever the city lifts its “emergency rule” brought on by covid.

At the moratorium’s expiration, tenants are expected to pay back rent without interest

Landlords are also tussling with a state law that suspends evictions and makes tenants pay only partial back-payments. That measure sunsets Jan. 31.