LA’s eviction moratorium continues for at least a month

City staff report recommends extending protections until end of year, while landlord group says rule is “dragging out the emergency”

Los Angeles city councilmember John Lee, Dan Yukelson (John Lee, LinkedIn, Getty)
Los Angeles city councilmember John Lee, Dan Yukelson (John Lee, LinkedIn, Getty)

Los Angeles City Council voted Aug. 26 to extend for another month one of the longest-running pandemic moratoriums on evictions in California.

Los Angeles’ eviction moratorium started in March 2020 and was intended to protect renters from becoming homeless during the economic disruption of the pandemic. Councilmember John Lee, who represents the city’s 12th District, was the sole vote against continuing the declaration. At a previous council meeting, he said that the eviction moratorium unfairly penalized landlords months after other governmental bodies, including the state of California, let eviction moratoria expire.

The L.A. City Council vote came a day after a city report recommended to extend the moratorium at least until the end of the year.

A long-anticipated report, authored by the Los Angeles Housing Department, was released on Aug. 25. The department, which runs the city’s affordable housing programs and works on housing development, recommended that a moratorium on rental evictions remain in place until Dec. 31. The report also recommended that during the last two months of 2022, tenants unable to pay rent because of the economic impact Covid will have eviction protection only if they provide landlords with a notice in a format prescribed by LAHD.

Also the report requests that the City Attorney’s Office draft a law that would regulate evictions on all non-rent stabilized multi-family rental units, as well as rentals in corporate-owned single-family homes and condominiums.

Other LAHD recommendations include a stipulation that tenants must repay pandemic rental debt by August 2023. The report may be discussed in September by the council’s Housing Committee and Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment, according to a City Hall source. Requests for comment were not returned by LAHD representatives.

The report was met with outrage and skepticism by landlord groups such as Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the association, said that pandemic restrictions on housing have run on while other pandemic rules such as mandatory masking have eased.

“Dragging out the emergency another four months and adding even more stringent and unnecessary tenant protections is another poke in the eye of landlords. This makes no sense other than for continued pandering to tenant voters at the expense of housing providers. And now, owners renting their single-family homes or previously exempt rental properties will be subjected to complicated and costly eviction regulations,” he said.

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Ari Chazanas, an AAGLA director and president of Lotus West Properties, which owns and manages more than 1,000 residential units in Los Angeles, estimated that his company has lost $50,000 a month since March 2020 because of the ongoing pandemic rules.

“This moratorium is never-ending,” Chazanas said.” We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars that we’ll never be able to recover.”

L.A. County government also maintains a long-running, parallel pandemic eviction moratorium which runs until June 2023 for some lower income people. It covers unincorporated areas of the county, where it will keep a rent-hike freeze through the end of this year.

The pandemic has had a big impact on the rental market; there was a 33 percent decrease in active listings in Los Angeles between March 2020 and March 2022, said Crystal Chen, a spokesperson for Zumper, a San Francisco-headquartered rental platform.

At the same time, there also was an increase in rents in Los Angeles. The average for a one-bedroom apartment cost $2,250 per month in March 2020. By August 2022, the price had increased 9 percent to $2,450.

Chen said that the moratorium may have had an effect on the rental market in Los Angeles. However, the slow pace in building new multifamily housing, which is independent of a moratorium, may have also had an impact on the situation.

A 2021 report co-authored by Stuart Gabriel, a director with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, measured the effects of rent moratoria. It quoted a Moody’s Analytics report that found that up to $70 billion in outstanding rent debt was owed to landlords across the nation by the end of 2020, the first pandemic year. The Moody’s report said that the federal government’s 2021 American Rescue Plan Act would cover only a small portion of what was owed landlords. The UCLA report said that reducing evictions allowed households to redirect scarce funds to other basic needs such as groceries.

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