Friday, June 14, 2024

L.A. County extends eviction moratorium by 2 months

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With Los Angeles County’s pandemic eviction moratorium set to lapse in days, the Board of Supervisors has voted to extend the countywide renters protections once more.

The moratorium will now expire at the end of March. This, county leaders say, will be the last time they push the end date.

The moratorium, first put in place at the coronavirus pandemic’s outset, was initially set to end Jan 31. With some on the board still worried about the lingering financial impacts of the pandemic, county leaders voted Tuesday to extend the countywide moratorium through March 31.

“COVID is not over. People are still getting sick. They’re still out of work,” said Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, the board’s sole renter, who spearheaded the motion. “They’re still losing jobs and unfortunately still dying from COVID.”

Under the moratorium, landlords cannot evict low-income tenants who say they were financially harmed by COVID-19 and can’t pay rent.

Through the pandemic, the moratorium had acted as a safety net for renters across L.A. County. It applied to all unincorporated areas and cities that did not have their own moratorium in place.

On Feb. 1, the city of Los Angeles is poised to become one of those cities.

The City Council agreed to let the citywide eviction moratorium expire at the end of January. In its place, the council passed a tenant protection package that includes universal “just cause” eviction rules, meaning landlords will no longer be allowed to evict tenants in any rental property, including single-family homes, unless there was unpaid rent, documented lease violations, owner move-ins or other specific reasons.

Because the city will no longer have its own eviction moratorium, the county’s moratorium will apply to residents of the city of Los Angeles starting Feb. 1, said Rachael Simon, a former senior housing deputy who is serving on Horvath’s transition team. The package of renter protections the City Council passed will not be affected by the county’s vote, she said.

The board passed the two-month extension on a 3-1 vote. Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted no, voicing concern for the county’s mom-and-pop landlords who she felt had gone unpaid for too long.

“We have to recognize that the landlords serve a purpose too,” said Barger, who emphasized she had “serious, serious reservations” about the proposal.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who had authored the last motion extending the moratorium, abstained. Isela Gracian, senior deputy on housing and homelessness, said her boss felt the motion didn’t do enough to address renters’ root challenges.

Horvath, who campaigned in part on renters’ rights, had originally pushed for the county to pass a more comprehensive package of renter protections Tuesday. The original motion, crafted by Horvath and Supervisor Hilda Solis, would have extended the moratorium six months and prohibited landlords from evicting tenants for pets or unauthorized tenants through the end of the year.

But their colleagues took issue with the proposal. Barger worried landlords had been left out of the conversation. Mitchell wanted more rent assistance going to landlords. Supervisor Janice Hahn said she was growing uneasy about the number of times the county had extended the moratorium.

“We try to have an off-ramp of this at every meeting and we can’t seem to get on that off-ramp,” Hahn said.

A majority of the board ultimately agreed on a watered-down version of Horvath’s initial package — one that would extend the eviction moratorium by two months instead of six. In a separate motion, the board also directed $45 million in rental assistance for the county’s smaller landlords.

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Many landlords and property managers called in to Tuesday’s meeting, urging the board to let the moratorium expire in a week as they had originally intended.

“I saw schools and day-cares reopen and still no rent. I registered new Porsches

to our garage on two accounts that I haven’t seen payment on in nearly three years,” said property manager Crystal Beard, adding she’d seen a few renters with over $100,000 in unpaid rent leave to purchase houses. “It is enough. It must stop. We need to put an end date to it.”

Others urged the county to go in the opposite direction, coming up with a more comprehensive package of tenant protections that would keep at-risk Angelenos in their homes past the new March end date.

“Without protections, community members are at great risk of displacement and being left on the streets,“ said Daniel Jimenez, director of community organizing with InnerCity Struggle, which serves families on the Eastside. “We need to ensure tenants are protected. We need to ensure tenants are housed.”

Advocates like Jimenez said the county wasn’t going far enough to protect at-risk renters.

Countywide eviction filings surged in 2022 after remaining far below pre-pandemic levels through 2021. The number of eviction filings countywide in November and December outpaced or roughly equaled the number of filings during those same months in 2018 and 2019, according to L.A. County Superior Court records compiled by Kyle Nelson, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA who has tracked them during the pandemic.

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