Supreme Court won’t hear LA landlords’ challenge to eviction moratorium
Dejected trade group asks, “How much more financial punishment can property owners take?”
The Supreme Court will not consider a legal challenge from landlords to the City of Los Angeles’ eviction moratorium.
The justices’ decision was revealed on Monday, after the matter had been before the court for months. The top court’s decision against hearing the case means that the City of L.A.’s eviction moratorium — which is tied to a local pandemic emergency order and ranks among the country’s longest — remains in effect.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Dan Yukelson, the president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), the L.A.-area landlord group that filed the challenge. “There’s a lot of property owners out there suffering today because the eviction moratorium has been in place for over two years.”
Tenant advocates, on the other hand, praised the development as a victory for local authorities who have taken decisive action throughout the pandemic.
“It should provide our local leaders some measure of comfort that their emergency protections have continued to be upheld in court,” Faizah Malik, a public interest attorney who helped defend the City of Los Angeles, told LAist. “I think this is a huge win for the city.”
AAGLA’s challenge had always been a long shot — the Supreme Court takes on very few cases — but landlord advocates were heartened in January, when the court requested a response in the matter from the City of L.A., indicating that at least one Justice was interested in the case.
The decision on Monday dashed those hopes, although Yukelson was hopeful about other ongoing legal cases, including a recently filed challenge to L.A. County’s eviction moratorium and an ongoing case from prominent L.A. developer Geoffrey Palmer, who claimed his companies have suffered tens of millions of dollars in losses on account of the region’s various eviction moratoriums.
A judge recently issued a favorable ruling for Palmer, by declining to grant a demurrer — a mechanism to dismiss a lawsuit on the grounds of insufficient allegations — that had been requested by California authorities.
The City of L.A. issued its first eviction moratorium, along with a freeze on rent hikes, in March of 2020, near the onset of the pandemic. The measures were intended to stave off a different kind of crisis — a potential wave of evictions, and increasing homeless, of tenants who could no longer pay rent on account of the pandemic — but over time the law also dried up many landlords’ income, leading to increasing hostility between property owners, tenants and government authorities.
“It is, but for the shooting, a war in every real sense,” one district judge noted.
By now, more than two years after initial lockdowns and nearly as long into a broad economic recovery, most cities around the country have let local moratoriums expire, but the City of L.A.’s moratorium, which is tied to an ongoing local emergency order rather than a specific date, remains in place. Earlier this year Los Angeles County supervisors also voted to extend county protections.
“How much babysitting does L.A. need to do for tenants?” said Yukelson, who also complained of tenants taking advantage of the protections. “How much more financial punishment can property owners take?”