City Council Extends Moratorium on Rent Hikes, Resident Evictions

The city’s moratorium on eviction for residential tenants, as well as its freeze on residential rent hikes, was extended a month by unanimous vote at this week’s City Council meeting.
The City Council also renewed its broad requirement that people wear face coverings while out in public, and allowed its moratorium on commercial evictions to expire. Those officials expect to revisit the three ongoing policies again before they’re scheduled to sunset, as it customarily has done since implementing the pandemic-related responses.
However, Councilman Ardy Kassakhian warned that the city will face “a serious reckoning” in the near future if no solution is uncovered to meet the financial needs of those landlords who have missed out on months of their income.
“It cannot continue indefinitely,” Kassakhian said, suggesting that city officials bridge meetings between tenants and landlords groups. “I don’t know what the county is going to do. I can’t predict it. But I can only imagine what would happen if this situation continued.”
For now, those residents who can show financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic are safe from eviction for rent nonpayment, but they likely didn’t need the city to get it. Practically speaking, no landlord can legally challenge a tenant with an eviction, as the state judicial council has barred eviction hearings for the duration of California’s state of emergency, plus a 90-day window that begins afterward.
On this rationale, Councilman Ara Najarian simply advocated to allow the moratoria to expire and let the buck stop with state officials, or perhaps county officials in the event a tenant would argue the Los Angeles County eviction ban applied to municipal residents.
“There will not be a case before a judge for months in which a tenant or a landlord can argue which law applies this month,” Najarian said Tuesday. “That’s my point, that it’s unlikely that a tenant or a landlord will be able to argue which law is in effect. That’s why I’m saying let’s just fold our hands and presume we’re working under the county ordinance.”
Council members ultimately settled on Friday, July 31, as the new extension to specifically align with the county’s similar ban. As the city also unveiled this week grant programs to assist low-income residential tenants with rent assistance, the council expects to have a clearer picture on the true plight of the city’s renters by that time.
Kassakhian noted that, according to the city’s own surveys, around 20-25% of residential renters have to some extent not paid their rents since the beginning of the moratorium. Public comment for this item was the usual mix of small-scale property owners worried about funding mortgages for their rental units and renters themselves pleading for continuing relief.
“I don’t anticipate that there’s any decision that we make that will satisfy either side entirely,” Kassakhian said. “Tenants are put out on the street if they’re evicted. It becomes a lot harder for these folks to find a new place to rent. First and last months’ rent, security deposits, all of these things add up. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this, but I think it makes sense to walk in step with the county, at least at this juncture.”
Councilman Dan Brotman agreed that he felt renters were in more vulnerable situations than property owners, but cautioned that this was still a generalization.
“Obviously, there are some landlords who are living on the edge as far as being able to service their mortgage and for them, that would be disastrous, to lose everything that they have,” he added. “Some renters are certainly living on a fixed income or may be still working and may be fine. That’s what makes this so incredibly difficult for us, is how do we parse those who really have a need and how do we protect those landlords who are really vulnerable. We have to use a hammer when I wish we could use a scalpel.”
Meanwhile, commercial renters were expected to pay their rents due Wednesday, in any scenario. In terms of paying back-rent, privately held enterprises with up to 10 locations and fewer than 100 employees will have six months to catch up; all others will have three months.

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