LA County sued over commercial eviction moratorium

Landlord of Lawndale auto repair shop says tenant has stayed open throughout pandemic, alleges government can’t undermine lease contract

Los Angeles /
Jan.January 20, 2021 09:15 AM
(iStock)
(iStock)

The landlord of a Lawndale auto repair shop is suing to overturn Los Angeles County’s commercial eviction moratorium, one of the first legal actions of its kind to challenge the county’s Covid-era ban.

Howard Iten claims his tenant stopped paying rent in April — and has accrued $30,000 in back rent — but has remained open throughout the pandemic because auto repair is considered an essential service, according to Commercial Observer. The suit was filed in federal court on Tuesday.

The county’s eviction ban was put in place in April alongside a residential moratorium and has been periodically extended over the last year. It is set to expire at the end of February, but another extension is expected.

The county’s moratorium gives a tenant up to 12 months to pay rent from the date it expires. Landlords also cannot collect interest on that back rent.

Iten argues that the government can’t undermine a lease contract and that the moratorium doesn’t help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, according to the report. The suit claims to be the first in the county and the country, to challenge a commercial eviction ban, Commercial Observer reported.

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles challenged the county’s residential eviction moratorium last year, but a federal judge sided with the county. The landlord group is appealing that decision.

A victory for Iten could be consequential for both landlords and commercial tenants in L.A. County. The state bars residential evictions only, so overturning L.A. County’s measure would seemingly give commercial landlords the right to evict. [CO] ­— Dennis Lynch 


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