Will California Landlords Survive the Eviction Moratorium? 

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
July 5, 2021 Updated: July 12, 2021

California small-property landlords fear their time is running out after Gov. Gavin Newson extended the state’s eviction moratorium through Sept. 30.

When announcing the extended deadline, which was previously set to expire on June 30, Newsom said the move was necessary to protect struggling Californians.

“California is coming roaring back from the pandemic,” he said in a June 25 statement. “But the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to disproportionately impact so many low-income Californians, tenants and small landlords alike.”

While some lawmakers praised the state’s decision, some landlords feared prolonging the moratorium would bring untenable financial hardship.

“A lot of small property owners are either being forced out of the market involuntarily or deciding that they don’t want to be in this business any longer,” Diane Robertson, founding member of Coalition of Small Renter Property Owners, told The Epoch Times.

With rent going unpaid, older property owners who are living off their rental income are facing hardship, Robertson said.

“We hear in the media about the mounting rental debt that tenants have, but no one stops to consider that there’s someone on the other side of that debt,” Robertson said. “It’s the landlords who are not receiving that income on which they are relying.

“There’s been this narrative of us against them, and we are certainly not anti-tenant. What we are looking for is some equitable, fair solutions that will help both renters and landlords. We simply can’t afford to allow tenants to live for free in properties that we own, we invested in, and for which we rely on rental income to maintain.”

Carrie Cunningham-Holes, a Los Angeles County landlord, said she currently houses about 10 tenants who aren’t paying rent.

“It hasn’t hit me as hard as others, but if it continues, it will affect me,” Cunningham-Holes told The Epoch Times. “I’m really concerned … some tenants rightfully lost their jobs … but I also think people have taken advantage.

While some individuals have provided Cunningham-Holmes with proof of financial burdens, other tenants have had more than a year of rent-free living, without providing evidence of money troubles.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing that requires proof to substantiate the fact [tenants] experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19,” Robertson said. “That’s been one of our contentions from the very beginning, that there are people who have not been impacted financially, but because they know the landlord has had no recourse, they stopped paying rent.”

When the Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium originally went into place in March 2020, Robertson joined with other landlords to start the grassroots Coalition of Small Rental Property Owners. The coalition was intended to serve as support to discuss what landlords would do if tenants stopped paying their rent.

It began with seven small-rental landlords and grew to more than 150.

Help From Above

In January, the state announced a plan to use $2.6 billion in federal aid to assist struggling tenants and small-property owners.

Despite promise of the funding, Robertson said some landlords haven’t received financial assistance, despite applying in March.

“I understand that people are hurting, but when you talk about small-property owners … we are not too dissimilar from our renters.”

Vacant Apartments

While some apartment owners are struggling to receive rent payments on time, others are experiencing an influx of tenants picking up and leaving to more affordable areas.

Faced with an apparent city exodus, Los Angeles landlord Michael Millman said he was forced to decrease rent by about 25 percent.

People are leaving West Los Angeles and moving inland, where they can rent a larger apartment for the same price and work remotely, Millman said.

Extended Moratorium

Along with prolonging the rent moratorium, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 832, which provides financial assistance for low-income tenants and small-property landlords under the state’s $5.2 billion rent relief program. The program is by far the largest COVID rent protection and relief program in the country.

The rental assistance program will cover 100 percent of late rent and future payments. Utility bills will also be covered for income-qualified renters until Sept. 30.

Some lawmakers have said the extension was necessary.

“This extension is key to making sure that more people don’t lose the safety net helping them keep their home,” Sen. Toni Atkins said in a June 25 statement. “People are trying to find jobs and make ends meet and one of the greatest needs is to extend the eviction moratorium which includes maximizing the federal funds available to help the most tenants and landlords possible, so that they can count on a roof over their heads while their finances rebound.”

Assemblymember David Chiu added: “Removing eviction protections now, while billions of rent relief dollars are still available, would be a disaster and exacerbate our homelessness crisis.”

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna