One of the country's longest-running eviction bans will last a little longer. Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a one-month extension of its eviction moratorium, citing rising cases of COVID, flu, and other respiratory illnesses.
A motion approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week prohibits the eviction of lower-income delinquent tenants who claim a COVID-19-related financial hardship through the end of January 2023. Renters also can't be removed for causing nuisances or having unauthorized pets and occupants.
The same motion asks county staff to study the feasibility of extending the moratorium through the end of June 2023, or over three years after the original May 31, 2020 expiration date for the county's eviction ban.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our housing crisis, and experts fear an 'eviction tsunami' is on the horizon if we don't take bold, swift action," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis on Twitter last week, shortly before the board approved the one-month extension. "Our families need eviction protections for at least an additional 6 months."
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our housing crisis, and experts fear an 'eviction tsunami' is on the horizon if we don't take bold, swift action. At no time, especially during a pandemic, should families be forced out of their homes and communities.
— Hilda Solis (@HildaSolis) December 20, 2022
Landlords say the county's decision imperils their businesses in the name of responding to an emergency that's long since passed.
"We just don't know where it's going to end at this point," says Daniel Yukelson, the executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA). "It's been a severe financial strain that's been put on the backs of what are mostly independent, small rental property owners that have had to deal with COVID in their own families."
AAGLA is currently suing the county over its eviction moratorium in federal court. In October, they won a small reprieve when a U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a preliminary injunction against enforcing parts of the county's moratorium.
The court found that the county's ban on landlords serving tenants with eviction notices unless the landlord reasonably believed that a tenant's self-certified claims of COVID financial hardship were false violated property owners' due process rights.
In response to that ruling, the county in November updated its moratorium to remove tenants' ability to self-certify they'd suffered COVID-related hardship and more clearly define what counts as a COVID-related hardship.
That policy was supposed to sunset at the end of the year. The board of supervisors says the extension through the end of January is necessary given the "respiratory illness trifecta" of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.
The city of Los Angeles' eviction moratorium—which AAGLA is also challenging in court—is set to expire at the end of January as well.
The federal government, almost all states, and many local governments adopted moratoriums on removing tenants for nonpayment of rent early in the pandemic. Moratorium supporters argued that the policies were necessary to preserve unemployed tenants' ability to abide by the lockdown orders that had also cost them a job and the ability to pay rent.
The lockdowns eventually ended, vaccines became universally available, and people went back to work. Nevertheless, moratoriums persisted, now justified by the need to give more time for federally funded rental aid to reach tenants who'd accumulated huge rental debts while eviction bans were in place. Tenant advocates claimed that ending moratoriums before then would cause an "eviction tsunami."
Federal rental assistance has now largely been spent, a federal eviction moratorium was struck down by the Supreme Court, and that eviction tsunami never quite materialized. A general, belated return to normality has seen almost all remaining state and local eviction bans end.
But Los Angeles officials have proven more resistant to letting their moratorium lapse. Politically, an eviction ban is a hard policy to walk away from.
Warnings of an eviction "tsunami" during the pandemic were always overblown. Landlords benefitted little from going through the costs of an eviction and turning over a unit just to be stuck with a vacancy in a depressed rental market.
The combination of a hot post-pandemic rental market and some tenants' accrual of massive unpayable rental debt during the near-three-year moratorium means landlords have much more incentive to pursue evictions.
So, Los Angeles officials warning that evictions will increase markedly if the county moratorium ends aren't exactly unfounded. Continually extending it is just delaying an inevitable result at this point, while further financially imperiling landlords currently stuck delinquent tenants.
To help small landlords weather the financial effects of the moratorium, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors is also considering the creation of a $5 million relief program.
Yukelson says that money would be a drop in the bucket compared to billions in unpaid rent the moratorium has foisted on landlords. He says the financial strain of the moratorium is forcing some AAGLA members and their properties out of the rental market entirely.
"These small owners aren't going to be willing to stay in the business," he says.