LA’s eviction moratorium to end in February

City Council votes to stop emergency restrictions, among the nation’s longest

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez (Getty Images)
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez (Getty Images)

Los Angeles landlords will soon be able to boot tenants who don’t pay their rent.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to end the three-year COVID-19 emergency restrictions, among the longest in the nation, on Feb. 1, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The lifting of the restrictions will once again allow building owners to evict tenants who have fallen behind in their rent. The restrictions have prohibited landlords from evicting renters affected by COVID-19 since March 2020 at the dawn of the pandemic.

The restrictions came in response to concern the widespread economic damage caused by the virus could cause a wave of evictions that would send homeless rates soaring and fuel the contagion.

“This policy that was put into place two years ago was intended solely to keep people housed and keep them off the streets,” City Council President Nury Martinez said before the vote. “Now is the time that we not only keep people off the streets but also protect people’s housing and preserve their financial well-being.”

The city’s eviction protections were among a raft of policies pushed by federal, state and local officials during the pandemic.

Tenants in the city of Los Angeles received $1.5 billion in rental assistance, according to L.A. housing officials, in an effort to keep renters in their homes while also paying landlords’ bills. Some 70 percent of tenants receiving assistance were classified as “extremely low-income,” which included families of four making less than $35,340 a year.

Wayne Harris, 65, a landlord who owns small properties in South L.A., told the council that some of his tenants haven’t paid rent since near the start of the pandemic, but government assistance programs have covered only half what he is owed.

“I worked hard all my life to purchase my building, not to house people rent-free,” Harris said. “If the government wants to implement something where people don’t have to pay rent, implement something where we get paid and made whole.”

The City Council voted unanimously 12-0 to end the moratorium.

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The city’s eviction protections have not waived past due rent, but landlord groups said it was unrealistic to expect tenants to repay large sums and unfair for landlords to have to go years without payment.

Under the plan approved this week, tenants have until August to repay rent debt accrued during the pandemic.

Councilman John Lee, who represents the northeast San Fernando Valley, said small landlords had borne too great a burden from the eviction protections as the economy stabilized and vaccines became widely available.

“We are learning to live in this new normal,” Lee said. “The moratorium has served its purpose, and now it is time to move on.”

In February 2024, a year after being allowed to resume evictions against tenants who are behind on their rent, landlords will be able to evict tenants for unauthorized pets or residents who aren’t listed on leases.

In rent-controlled apartments, about three-quarters of the city’s apartment complexes, rent increases will be allowed to resume in February 2024.

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles had challenged the eviction moratorium on legal grounds, but in April the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

Los Angeles County has extended its pandemic-related eviction moratorium through the end of the year, with some protections slated to last until mid-2023.

— Dana Bartholomew

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