In an unanimous 12-0 vote on Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to officially end the city-wide eviction moratorium that had been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on February 1, 2023.
Since 2020, landlords have fought hard against the city eviction moratorium, saying that it put an undue burden on them and that they have been financially struggling to pay mortgages and other expenses due to no money coming in from renters who can’t be removed. Housing groups, aided by statistics showing that homelessness in LA would significantly jump up as a result, including state statistics showing that 101,000 households had rent relief funding during the pandemic in LA alone, prevailed in fighting off attempts in ending the moratorium during the last few years, including in court.
The City Council kept extending the moratorium every several months, including as recently as July. However, severely declining COVID-19 rates in LA, as well as President Joe Biden declaring the pandemic over last month, brought forth a new effort to finally pin down an end date for the eviction moratorium. At the same time, previous housing committee meetings that had the issue fought over tooth and nail finally started reaching understandings on a sunset date.
Last month, the City of Los Angeles Housing Department released a report recommending an end date of December 31, 2022. However, Councilmembers on the Committee fought to continue the moratorium another month, noting that renters would need time to recover following holiday expenses. The Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment subsequently voted late last month on a January 31, 2023 end date, with the final vote to come on October 4th.
During the week between the Committee and Council votes, renter protection advocates fought hard, not wanting pre-pandemic rules to come back, as well as not wanting to see a mass eviction occur come February 1st or permanent protections not being granted first.
“To end the moratorium without first enacting permanent protections would be reckless and inhumane,” said Public Counsel senior staff attorney Faizah Malik this week. “There should be no gaps in protections for tenants. We cannot go back to a pre-pandemic world of tens of thousands of evictions, increasing rent burden, rising homelessness and a worsening housing crisis.”
Others pointed out that lower-income people are still struggling due to the after effects of the pandemic, growing inflation, and worsening signs of an oncoming recession.
“We’re still recovering,” noted Community Power Collective senior organizer Carla De Paz on Tuesday in front of the Council. “We are still in an emergency. We know this. We live this every day. Our city, our government wants to ignore the fact that people are still struggling. But we know we’re still struggling.”
The end of eviction moratoriums in LA
However, landlords noted the extreme need to end the moratorium now due to many smaller ‘mom and pop’ landlords facing financial hardship due to having to keep tenants not paying rent in their apartment complex while receiving little in the way for relief and ultimately being the ones taking on the burden of lost rent.
“We have been forced to give free housing with no money coming in for years plural now,” expressed LA landlord Clark Inouye to the Globe on Tuesday. “We need this so badly, yet these rental groups aren’t seeing what we had to do for them for years. It really hurt us, and I don’t think they realize just how much it has. Many of us are deep in the red, and getting rid of renters not paying for those who can is a giant step to recovery for us.”
Following a last minute rally by rental protection advocates outside the LA City Hall on Tuesday, such as the Keep LA Housed Coalition, the City Hall took a final vote. Only 12 of the 15 members were present for the vote, due to Councilman Mike Bonin being absent and Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Krekorian not voting due to owning rental properties themselves. Nonetheless, the Council ruled unanimously in a 12-0 vote to not only end the rent moratorium, but also many caveats to rent in LA for the next few years.
Under the passed motion, tenants will have until August 1, 2023 to pay back all missed rent between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, as well as until February 1, 2024 to pay back all rent missed from October 2021 to January 2023. Rent could also be increased on rent-control buildings beginning in February 2024.
“The compromise preserves the livelihood of our renters while still transitioning from COVID-era protections to permanent tenant protections,” explained Council President Nury Martinez after the vote. “We cannot let this burden fall on either side, whether it’s the tenants or the mom-and-pop landlords. This policy that was put into place two years ago was intended solely to keep people housed and keep them off the streets. Now it is time that we not only keep people off the streets, but we also protect people’s housing and preserve their financial well-being.”
Councilman John Lee added, “Two-and-a-half years later, the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, people have returned to the workplace, vaccines are widely available, and we are learning to live in this new normal. The moratorium has served its purpose and now it is time to move on.”
While rental protection groups were crestfallen at the final vote, landlords were exuberant at the prospect of evicting tenants that need to go in a few months.
“Eviction is always a last resort for us,” continued Inouye. “It’s something we don’t like doing. So when you see us happy that we can do this again, it should tell you just how much a lot of us suffered. We’ve honestly felt forgotten about. We can finally get our lives back on track now.”
Eviction protections are scheduled to end on February 1, 2023.
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