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Echo Park in Los Angeles (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Los Angeles’ Eviction Moratorium

Court rules that moratorium may continue until current planned end date of September 30th

By Evan Symon, August 27, 2021 2:37 am

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier District Court decision over keeping the Los Angeles eviction moratorium in place on Wednesday, allowing the moratorium to continue until the current September 30th end date.

Landlord groups, specifically the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), have been fighting against eviction moratoriums since last year. Eviction moratoriums began to be put into place shortly after COVID-19 lockdowns began across the state in March and April of 2020. As keeping people housed was deemed to be a key way to stop the spread of virus, particularly among the more vulnerable segments of the population, eviction moratoriums were set up, allowing people to stay in their apartments or houses despite not paying that months rent.

However, as moratoriums were extended, many landlords, particularly smaller landlords who only owned one or two rental properties to provide income, were hit hard by many tenants not paying rent. This crunch of tenants being protected but not landlords caused many lawsuits to break out across the state, with most being centered around the rent-heavy Los Angeles area. In June of 2020, one case, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, directly challenged the ban on evictions, as well as the ban on rent increases and late fees.

In November, the Associations case was struck down by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, who noted that despite both tenants and landlords being hurt by the pandemic, the public health crisis warranted the eviction staying in place.

“Landlords and tenants alike are victims of the virus, both literally and economically,” the Judge wrote in November. “Tenants should not have to live in fear of eviction because of a calamity that was not of their making. Landlords should not have to live in fear of losing their hard-earned investments in our community because of a calamity that was not of their making. Our citizens should not have to fight each other to avoid economic and personal ruin.”

The AAGLA immediately repealed, during which times moratoriums were extended several times to the current end date on September 30th.

Despite the move to the Appellate court, the case was struck down again on Wednesday. Specifically, Judge Daniel Aaron Bress wrote for the panel that Los Angeles’ moratorium did not  violate the U.S. Constitution’s Contracts Clause and that the city’s response was appropriate because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Whatever force plaintiff’s challenge may have had in a much earlier era of Contract Clause jurisprudence, more contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency,” said Judge Bress in his ruling. “For the first century and a half of U.S. legal history the Contract Clause imposed consequential limitations that federal courts routinely deployed to invalidate state and local legislation. But since the Supreme Court’s 1934 case, Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell, the Contract’s Clause prohibitive force has been significantly curbed.

“The moratorium’s provisions were likely reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goal of preventing displacement from homes, which the city reasonably explained could exacerbate the public health-related problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, each of the provisions of the eviction moratorium that plaintiff challenged could be viewed as reasonable attempts to address that valid public purpose.”

Praise, disapproval over Appellate ruling

Many tenants groups praised the decision on Thursday, noting that, even with the success, the moratorium will still end in about a month.

“It’s a victory, but one we know that will be short lived if it is not extended again,” explain Joel Jimenez, a Los Angeles tenant advocate who has assisted some law firms in gathering tenant details, to the Globe on Thursday. “It’s good to have precedent, but without another extension in the midst of this Delta outbreak, we may see a lot of people go to the street come October.”

Landlord associations disapproved of the ruling, with the AAGLA even saying that they might bring it to the Supreme Court.

“I understand that some of the justices of the Supreme Court are interested in hearing a Contracts Clause case and this one would be the right case for them to hear,” noted AAGLA Executive Director Daniel Yukelson in a statement on Wednesday.

AAGLA’s Executive Director Daniel Yukelson told City News Service the association is prepared to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both the state eviction moratorium and the county moratorium are expected to end on September 30th if extensions are not given in the coming weeks.

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9 thoughts on “9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Los Angeles’ Eviction Moratorium

  1. My salute to Captain Queeg…..hate your landlord….hate your tenant….hate your teacher…..hate your student….hate your employer…..hate your employee…..as your Commissars dine in elegance.

  2. Well that’s nice because the US Supreme Court just struck down the federal eviction mandate that had been issued by the CDC.
    I say that’s checkmate.

  3. I’m sure landlords will be receiving state checks to help them pay the mortgage on those properties, since, all of us who live in reality know, the banks don’t have moratoriums on mortgage payments. Oh, and the state and counties of CA will also give landlords a moratorium on paying property taxes on those properties not generating any rent. FIRE ALL DEMOCRATS IN SACRAMENTO.

  4. Wait. The US Supreme Court just ruled that the CDC did NOT have the authority to bar evictions. So now a local US District Court holds that City of Los Angeles bureaucrats DO have the authority to bar evictions.
    Gosh! I wonder who wins THIS showdown?

  5. I’m curious why I see so many articles claiming the CITY of Los Angeles’ moratorium is scheduled to expire Sept 30 when it isn’t. It’s tied to the end of the local emergency period, which has no scheduled end date. https://lamayor.org/COVID19Orders and https://hcidla2.lacity.org/highlights/renter-protections for reference. The COUNTY and STATE orders are supposedly going to end Sept 30th, as they’ve been supposedly going to end a number of times before. CITY has not given any end in sight.

    Abe – yes not only are we still paying mortgages and property taxes (there were some relief options offered, though nothing near what tenants are still offered), but we pay fees directly to the City for the honor of renting out units. Not only are those due, but they went up, and there was special assessment charged on top of all that (about 40% of the annual charge if I remember corrrectly)… oh and this on top of not permitting any rent increases for rent control units (already severely limited in increases) for the local emergency (no end date in sight) + 12 months. This is across the board. Period. Regardless of renter’s income or impact from COVID.

    While there are a lot of good intentions and generally the renter protections in the US have been positive (in my opinion), LA has seized the opportunity to push its agenda and anchor tenant votes at any cost to the evil landlords. There is no realistic end to this in the City of LA without courts intervening and most impacted landlords are going to be SOL. Watch as the # of affordable units in LA goes down as a result of this (guess who offers the majority of affordable rental units – it’s small landlords).
    *rant over*

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