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Los Angeles Apartment Association Sues City Of LA Challenging Eviction Ban And Rent Freeze

Claiming that Los Angeles city officials have unconstitutionally placed the entire economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic on the backs of property owners and landlords, an apartment association has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles challenging the city's eviction moratorium and rent freeze.

Los Angeles Apartment Association Sues City Of LA Challenging Eviction Ban And Rent Freeze
Downtown Los Angeles

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of its 10,000 members.

"The eviction ban is being challenged now because there’s no apparent end in sight on if or when the city, mayor or the city council will lift the local emergency declaration," Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Dan Yukelson said to Bisnow. "The moratorium allows residents to not pay rent for an entire year after the emergency ban is lifted and waives interest and late fees without any documentation requirements evidencing need for these interest-free loans."

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer's office did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

The lawsuit comes more than a month after the Los Angeles City Council extended its moratorium on residential and commercial evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti implemented the eviction moratoriums in March as part of the city's efforts to protect residents and commercial businesses that may have been impacted by the coronavirus. As of Thursday, Los Angeles recorded 68,875 coronavirus cases and 2,813 deaths.  

Under LA's moratorium orders, apartment owners/landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant for nonpayment, "no fault" reasons or unauthorized occupants such as having a pet or another person staying with that tenant during the local emergency period.

The mayor also ordered a rent freeze on rent-controlled properties to one year after the end of the coronavirus emergency declaration.

"This is a common sense action to help tenants stay in their homes," Garcetti said at the time. "Angelenos who have lost hours or been laid off, or can’t work as a result of a COVID-19 diagnosis, should not face the extra burden of a spike in their rent."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at an event in Watts, California
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Yukelson said while tenants are protected, many apartment owners in the city are also suffering from financial hardships but see no reprieve from lenders.

Yukelson said many apartment owners may soon face foreclosure.

"The city’s housing providers are predominantly smaller 'mom-and-pop' owners who, like renters, already struggled financially and lived month-to-month before the onset of the pandemic," Yukelson said. "Many of the city’s housing providers have also lost full-time jobs or been inflicted with the coronavirus and have very little in financial reserves to weather a long-term emergency. Many of these owners are not only struggling to meet the financial obligations of maintaining and managing their rental property, they have been struggling to provide housing, food and clothing for their families."

The lawsuit is challenging the city's eviction ban and rent freeze on constitutional grounds.

Yukelson said the city’s actions are a violation of the contract clauses and the takings clauses under the California and U.S. Constitutions, and a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying the due process rights of property owners under the California and U.S. Constitutions.

"The eviction ban is the functional equivalent of illegally and forcibly requiring landlords to become involuntary lenders to their tenants and to eliminate any charges a lender would impose after evaluating the risks of any particular ‘debtor,’" said Rutan & Tucker's Douglas Dennington, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles' attorney. "In fact, these involuntary interest-free loans are being given to tenants without any ability to verify lost income or need for such loans."