Complicated Web Of Eviction Protections Becomes More Difficult To Navigate
The state of California’s eviction protections, in place for over a year and a half, are scheduled to expire Sept. 30 after a number of extensions. State legislators have said they wouldn't extend the protections, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is unlikely to move to extend it either, CalMatters reports, meaning landlords can begin to file evictions for nonpayment of rent starting Oct. 1.
Landlords and tenants in the state have spent the past 18 months navigating a complex and confusing patchwork of rules and regulations surrounding evictions and rent repayment, and with the state’s protections expected to sunset and some LA-area municipalities coming up on the expirations of their own protections, renters and owners are once again re-evaluating what they can and can’t do.
There are still some boxes landlords must tick before they can file for an eviction over unpaid rent, due to a state law passed this summer. Starting Oct. 1 and lasting through March 31, landlords seeking to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent between September 2020 and September 2021 must attest that they attempted to apply for rental assistance for that tenant first and didn't receive it, either because they were rejected from the program or because the tenant didn't participate.
The state law also offers protection from eviction for tenants who have paid 25% or more of the rent they owe through Sept. 30, but tenants must begin to pay rent in full starting Oct. 1. Essentially, as far as paying rent is concerned, pre-pandemic norms are back once the state’s protections expire.
Rental assistance has been slow to go out, as it has been across the country, but Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles staff attorney Jonathan Jager said he anticipates that the rise in eviction lawsuits that hinge on rent nonpayment will create added pressure on the state government to get money out quickly. As a result of the sluggish disbursement, property owners, who have in some cases gone for as much as a year and a half without rent, have suffered tremendously, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Daniel Yukelson said.
“All government has been able to do so far is continue extending eviction moratoriums due to the government’s own failure to distribute badly needed rental assistance provided by the federal government,” Yukelson said, noting that the majority of the $5.2B available for rental assistance has yet to be distributed to applicants.
The apartment association sued the city over its eviction moratorium in LA Superior Court. The suit was unsuccessful, as was an appeal, but the apartment association is preparing to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Yukelson said.
The city of Los Angeles’ residential eviction protections are tied to its local emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, declared in March 2020 by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Because of the way that LA's regulations surrounding eviction protections were drafted and the timing of when those rules went into effect, tenants in LA will have a 12-month grace period to pay back unpaid rent before they can be evicted for nonpayment, Jager said. That won't stop eviction paperwork from being filed.
Los Angeles County’s renter protections, enacted by the board of supervisors, are set to expire on Sept. 30 along with the state protections, but the county is making moves to extend the life of its protections in some form. The LA County Board of Supervisors has a plan that would convert the county’s existing eviction moratorium to something called the Covid-19 Tenant Protections Resolution, the agenda for its Sept. 28 meeting says. The resolution would adjust and eventually lead to an end to the protections that currently serve as affirmative defenses for commercial and residential tenants.
The county protections have largely shielded tenants from evictions for unauthorized additional occupants in a unit, pets and nuisances, and many kinds of no-fault evictions, Jager said. They have been helpful to some tenants with landlords who, seeking to evict tenants for nonpayment but being unable to, have sought to use these other bases for eviction, Jager said.
Supervisors said when they extended their measures in June that their actions were the beginning of a thoughtful phase-out. There are already many exceptions to the types of evictions that are allowed and the circumstances in which they can occur.
Some localities are waiting to see what the county does before determining their own courses of action. The West Hollywood City Council voted on Sept. 20 to take steps to extend the county moratorium’s provisions in the city if the county doesn’t extend them countywide.
“The thinking is this isn’t over yet,” West Hollywood Rent Stabilization and Housing Manager Jonathan Holub said. “With the delta variant, the continued local emergency, and state and national emergency, we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s a reason to keep this extended for a period of time.”
After the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, reports came in from across the country of an uptick in evictions, and although state and LA county protections have been in place, evictions have been occurring throughout the pandemic in a variety of ways.
But Jager said that he isn't expecting an instant surge of evictions on Oct. 1, in large part because of the procedural hurdles that must be jumped before evictions can happen in court. But that doesn’t mean he thinks that a surge won't eventually come.
“We think starting Oct. 1, there will be an uptick in filings because it's when those filings are allowed to begin, and it'll be a steady trickle that will grow into a stream that will grow into a river as we move to the end of 2021 and into 2022,” Jager said.
Yukelson isn’t expecting a flood of evictions on Oct. 1, either, but for a different reason. He said smart landlords know that it is challenging to collect money awarded in court and that they may ultimately end up getting only a fraction of the back rent they are owed.
“Given the time required and cost of hiring legal counsel to pursue evictions, it is throwing good money after bad,” Yukelson said.