“Mom-and-pop” landlords in Los Angeles say they are undergoing severe hardship because of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium, which protects tenants from being evicted when they do not pay rent for pandemic-related reasons.
The moratorium will be in effect through August 2023, or up to 12 months following the end of the city’s local emergency, which was first declared in March 2020 to help tenants with financial hardship.
The city council voted July 28 to extend the state of emergency for another 30 days and asked the housing department to come up with a report with recommendations on possible adjustments by Aug. 11.
These small-scale property owners are pleading with city officials to terminate the eviction ban as soon as possible.
“Particularly, mom-and-pop landlords, which I represent … most of us are not too unlike our tenants,” Diane Robertson, founding member of the Coalition of Small Rental Property Owners told The Epoch Times.
These property owners affected by the moratorium are depleting their savings to make ends meet, she said.
“We work for a living, you know,” she said. “We need our jobs, and we do rely on the rental income from our properties to pay the mortgage taxes, utilities, insurance, and all other maintenance.”
She added that not all renters who are not paying rent are unable to do so, and many chose to “take advantage of the system” for the last two-and-a-half years.
“[The moratorium has] created opportunities for really bad actors to decide that because landlords have no recourse, they don't have to pay rent, and instead, they can do other things like travel and buy new cars and new furniture,” she said.
If the situation continues, she said, these landlords might be forced out of business due to foreclosure or bankruptcy and, as a result, would likely have their properties purchased by corporate owners.
Her group on July 28 joined City Councilman John Lee—who was the lone vote against extending the local emergency at the council meeting later that day—and other landlords in a press conference urging officials to end the eviction moratorium.
Lee said an end date should be decided so that “mom-and-pop” landlords can plan accordingly.
“Right now, they're in limbo. Does this end a month from now? Does it end a year from now? We need to be able to provide them certainty,” he said.
Some small-scale property owners said the key problem is not that some tenants don’t pay—but that the city’s policies have ignored their needs and challenges.
"Our home has been stolen from us, not by our tenants, but by the overly broad policies created under Mayor Eric Garcetti and upheld by the majority of our city council,” Liz Reckart, a landlord, said at the news conference.
Audre Lopez-King, a small rental property owner, said her income is now a quarter of what she would make without the ban.
“Policymakers focus on tenant voting numbers and corporate interests, and they ignore the social contributions and rights of mom-and-pop landlords,'' Lopez-King told the council before the vote. “We are forced to bear the cost of tenant cost issues and the city's homelessness crisis.”
Meanwhile, dozens of tenant rights groups spoke in support of the extension at the meeting.
While approving the extension, some councilors also agreed that there needs to be more nuance when creating policies that might negatively impact small rental property owners.
Like the City of Los Angeles, some municipalities—such as Los Angeles County, Alameda County, the City of San Diego, and the City of San Francisco—still have theirs in place though the state’s eviction ban already expired on June 30.
“What's happening in [Los Angeles] is really just a small part of what's happening throughout the state,” Johnathon Madison, who chairs the Alameda County Bar Association's real estate section, told The Epoch Times.
He said tenants often don’t have to show proof of financial hardship when applying for rent relief, and many Californian landlords haven’t received any financial assistance from the state.
“If you're lying, nobody's going to check, you know, check your taxes or anything. So, you may have a situation where there are some—not all, obviously—tenants out there who are really taking advantage of the system,” he said.
According to the City of Los Angeles, tenants eligible for eviction protection are those who experienced COVID-related loss of income including reduced work hours, childcare, and medical expenses.
Also, the protection doesn't absolve tenants from paying rent indefinitely since they must pay back the amount owed within a time period permitted by their local governments.
Madison works with the California Apartment Association, which filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County Board of Supervisors July 18 because the county refuses to lift the ongoing eviction ban that violated landlords’ "constitutional rights," according to the association.
The board rejected the following week a proposal to discuss changing their moratorium, which will expire 60 days after the end of its local health emergency.
According to court documents, there’s one tenant who has paid nothing since January 2020, owing at least $58,000 for 16 months of rent.
“Someone must pay the rent, or many housing providers will lose their property,” Tom Bannon, CEO of the apartment association said in a statement last month. “Evictions are the last resort, but after two years of some residents not paying rent, nothing remains for many rental property owners to do.”
As most pandemic restrictions are phasing out across the state, the eviction ban is no longer justifiable, said Debra Carlton, the apartment association’s executive vice president of state public affairs.
“It’s been more than two years now,” Carlton said in the statement. “Most eligible Californians are vaccinated, and people are back to work. It’s time to put COVID eviction moratoria behind us and get back to paying the rent on time.”
A victory for San Francisco landlords came July 28 when a superior court judge struck down attempts to change the 3-day eviction notice period to 10 days for nonpaying tenants.
The original provision of the law that upholds the 3-day period will remain, while 10-day notices will be used for other violations of a lease.