A U.S. District Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction against Los Angeles County’s pandemic-era eviction moratorium.
The Oct. 19 ruling by District Court Judge Dean Pregerson requires the county to end by Dec. 1 its policy of allowing residents to forego paying rent.
The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and the Apartment Owners Association of California filed a lawsuit in March asking the judge to stop enforcement of the rent moratorium, saying the policy was “unconstitutionally vague.” They also asked for monetary relief.
“There’s no rational basis for the County keeping its eviction moratorium in effect for nearly three years especially since the health crisis ended long ago,” Jeffery Faller, president of the Apartment Owners Association of California, said in a statement.
In the ruling, Pregerson granted the preliminary injunction based on the vagueness of the policy and lack of specific standards for how to legally apply the moratorium.
Los Angeles County enacted the eviction moratorium in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As a result, many landlords have been unable to collect rent and have lost their properties to foreclosure or fire sales, according to Faller.
Some renters have taken advantage of the situation by not paying rent as they claimed COVID-related impacts and used their money to travel or purchase cars and homes for themselves, Faller said.
The county’s Board of Supervisors voted in January to extend the moratorium through the end of the year while leaving in place some protections until June 2023. California’s moratorium ended in September 2021.
The state’s COVID-19 state of emergency is also expected to end Feb. 28, 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Oct. 17.
The county is reviewing the court’s decision and has no comment on ongoing legal matters, spokesman Jesus Ruiz told The Epoch Times.
The county encourages renters and property owners who have questions about the county’s COVID Tenant Protections Resolution, which is still in effect, to visit its website or call 800-593-8222 to speak with a counselor at the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, Ruiz said.
The extension allowed COVID-affected tenants to withhold payments and declare themselves unable to pay rent beginning April 1. Landlords were also prohibited from evicting tenants for causing a nuisance, allowing others to live with them, or keeping unauthorized pets.
For landlords, the court’s ruling—coming two months before the moratorium’s end date—is overdue.
“While this ruling is certainly great news for rental housing providers in Los Angeles County, the Court’s decision comes a little too late,” Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Daniel Yukelson said in a statement.
The groups intend to continue pursuing the case and to obtain a final order declaring the county’s ordinance unconstitutional to allow association members to seek compensation to cover billions of dollars in losses, he said.
Cheryl Turner, board of directors president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and State Senate candidate, said the county “used the excuse of the global pandemic to wield unlimited power over private property owners.”
“No business other than the rental housing business had been singled out and forced to provide services for free,” Turner said in the statement.
There have been other challenges to eviction moratoriums across the United States but none have been successful, according to attorney Douglas J. Dennington of Rutan & Tucker of Irvine, who represented the landlord groups.
The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles has also filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles challenging the constitutionality of its moratoriums on evictions and rent increases. The case is still pending.