COVID-Era Back Rent Now Due in Los Angeles

Los Angeles landlords alone are owed an estimated $898 million, according to a recent analysis by Oakland-based Policy Link, a research organization.
COVID-Era Back Rent Now Due in Los Angeles
A woman walks past a wall bearing graffiti asking for rent forgiveness on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles on May 1, 2020. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
Rudy Blalock

Starting on Feb. 1, Los Angeles renters owe, in full, any unpaid rent between Oct. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2023, ending a pandemic-era policy.

In a statement issued on Jan. 30, Mayor Karen Bass assured Angelenos that there are abundant resources to help renters in arrears.

“We must do all that we can to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place,” she said. “Together with locked arms, we will continue our work to provide resources for the people of Los Angeles.”

The Los Angeles City Council also voted on Feb. 2 to prohibit landlords from evicting tenants over rent debt—for 120 days starting from Feb. 1—if they are still waiting for rental aid disbursement from the city.

According to the statement on the city’s website, for renters who may lose their rental now if they don’t pay back what’s owed, the Los Angeles Housing Department can help direct them to city resources, such as StayHoused LA—which offers free legal services—and encouraged those affected to “read their paperwork carefully” if they receive any three-day eviction notices and to file an answer within five days to avoid eviction.

The city council voted in late January to continue eviction protections for those who are approved for rent relief and are awaiting funds, with the latest round—funded by the voter-approved 2022 Measure ULA, which adds a tax on home sales of more than $5 million to fund affordable housing and help prevent homelessness—totaling $30 million. So far, only $7.9 million has been distributed, according to media reports.

Los Angeles landlords alone are owed an estimated $898 million, according to a recent analysis by Oakland-based PolicyLink, a research organization, and the USC Equity Research Institute, which focuses on advancing racial and economic equity nationwide.

Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles President Daniel Yukelson told The Epoch Times that now that the deadline is here for those who owe back rent, there shouldn’t be more eviction filings, as most tenants who owe have either moved or are now negotiating with landlords to settle their debt.

Mr. Yukelson said a rise in evictions is also unlikely “because owners are so financially strapped today,” noting that many small mom-and-pop landlords are already struggling to stay afloat and don’t want to take on legal fees.

“Tenants get free attorneys, and these attorneys just drag the process along. They ask for a jury trial; they ask for continuance on continuance. Any minor thing that they could think of,” he said.

According to Mr. Yukelson, an eviction in Los Angeles can cost property owners as much as $50,000 and nearly a year in time, after all is said and done, so evictions are usually a last resort for them.

“These are very expensive endeavors,” he said.

Instead of the City of Los Angeles funding the potential for long, dragged-out legal affairs, Mr. Yukelson said it could save money by giving tenants what they owe to keep a roof over their heads.

“They’re spending hundreds of dollars an hour on these private attorneys ... when all the tenants need is a couple thousand dollars just to get them over the hump,” he said.

Demonstrators call for a rent strike during the COVID-19 pandemic as they pass City Hall in Los Angeles on May 1, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators call for a rent strike during the COVID-19 pandemic as they pass City Hall in Los Angeles on May 1, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

According to data compiled by City Controller Kenneth Mejia, landlords sent an estimated 77,000 notices to Los Angeles renters from February 2023 to December 2023, 96 percent of which were for overdue rent, with the average rent owed at about $3,774. Hollywood had the most with more than 5,000 notices, followed by the Fairfax District with more than 3,800.

In Los Angeles, eviction notices may be filed only for renters who owe at least one month of fair market rent, which varies by ZIP code, ranging from about $2,000 in South Los Angeles to nearly $4,000 in the Fairfax, Melrose, Wilshire-La Brea area.

According to Mr. Mejia’s analysis, there were about 12,200 eviction notices filed in cases in which the rent owed was below one’s fair market monthly rent, which disqualifies the eviction.

Jan. 31 was also the last day landlords with properties built before 1978 were prohibited from rent increases, a rule that has been in place since March 2020. Now, landlords on those properties can increase the rent until June 30 by between 4 percent and 6 percent.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year capped rent increase at 3 percent on rentals in unincorporated areas, which expired at the end of the year. The rent cap has now been extended until June 30, limiting increases to 4 percent.

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.
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