California Landlords Fight State Eviction Moratorium in Federal Court

The lawsuit argues the ban violates rental housing owners’ property rights

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A major landlord group is fighting back against the unprecedented tenant protections that started with the pandemic-driven shutdowns almost 17 months ago.

The California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) filed a lawsuit against the state in the federal district court in Sacramento for again extending the eviction ban through Sept. 30. CalRHA’s lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Assembly Bill 832, the state’s third extension of the statewide moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent. 

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The lawsuit was filed one day after other real estate groups challenged the national eviction moratorium, which was more recently extended to Oct. 3. AB 832, however, protects California renters from being evicted if, by Oct. 1, they pay 25 percent of the rent owed between Sept. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. 

The suit alleges that the moratorium unconstitutionally violates rental housing owners’ basic property rights, and substantially — and retroactively — impairs existing rental agreements and leases, which give owners the contract right to repossess their units for nonpayment of rent.

CalRHA’s lawsuit, filed under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, seeks a declaration that AB 832 is unconstitutional and an injunction prohibiting its enforcement.

“We tried working with our legislators and the governor to reach an agreement that would recognize the financial burdens faced by both rental housing providers and renters,” Christine Kevane LaMarca, president of CalRHA, said in a statement. “They chose to ignore the financial burdens of small and medium rental property providers. The courts are our last resort.”

LaMarca said rental housing providers across the state are suffering “severe economic distress” and losses directly caused by the state’s eviction moratorium, and that the law does not provide a distinction between residents who cannot afford to pay rent due to the pandemic and residents who are using the moratorium to violate their rental agreements.

CalRHA represents more than 19,000 rental housing providers.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.