Court Order to Block LA County’s Eviction Ban a Month Early
It’s been 965 days since Los Angeles County declared a local health emergency due to COVID-19, and landlords are still prevented from evicting tenants for not paying rent if it’s related to the pandemic. But now a federal court has ordered the county to stop enforcing the moratorium on Dec. 1, one month before it’s set to expire.
The Apartment Association of Los Angeles County and the Apartment Owners Association of California (AOA) secured an order from Judge Dean Pregerson granting a preliminary injunction for the county’s eviction moratorium. The county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
The order explains the moratorium was based on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors concluding in 2020 that COVID-19 “is causing, and is expected to continue to cause, serious financial impacts to Los Angeles County residents and businesses … impeding their ability to pay rent,” and that displacing tenants would worsen the present crisis. But COVID variants such as delta and omicron caused the county to extend the moratorium with a revised set of “tenant protections.”
Pregerson said the tenant protections violate landlords’ due process rights and are unconstitutionally vague. For example, in some instances, a county resolution states tenants shall not be evicted if they demonstrate that they can’t pay rent because of financial impacts related to the pandemic, but the county also asserts that there is no longer a total moratorium on evictions for COVID-related nonpayment of rent.
The county contends tenant protections do not prohibit landlords from doing anything, the injunction explains, even though a resolution prohibits landlords from taking action to terminate any tenancy. The regulations do not give an ordinary person a “reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited,” and Pregerson said laws must provide sufficiently explicit standards.
Jeffrey Faller, president of AOA, said eviction bans have encouraged unscrupulous renters to skip paying rent without recourse.
“There’s no rational basis for the county keeping its eviction moratorium in effect for nearly three years, especially since the health crisis ended long ago,” Faller said in a statement. “For the county’s tenants, a ‘rent holiday’ has existed the entire time. As a result, many of our members’ lives are ruined as they have been unable to collect rent, and lost their properties to foreclosure or fire sales, and many others have had to liquidate retirement savings or have gone into debt using credit cards in order to meet ongoing obligations like mortgage payments, property insurance, taxes and ongoing maintenance and repair costs.”
Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the apartment association, said it will look to obtain similar rulings in other jurisdictions such as Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, as many municipalities enacted moratoriums in addition to the county’s. The association also filed a lawsuit to stop the city of L.A.’s moratorium, and that case is still pending.
Gregory Cornfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.