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After Almost 3 Years, LA Council Votes To End Its Pandemic Eviction Protections

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to end pandemic-related tenant protections after Jan. 31. 

The vote was framed by several on the council as a necessary and carefully crafted compromise.

Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to end pandemic renter protections in place for over two years.

Tenants hoped to see a suite of new rules put in place before the existing ones end, while landlords and landlord advocates were frustrated that it had taken so long to sunset the so-called eviction moratorium and were wary of new rental rules that were part of the rollback.

“The conditions of 2020 are completely different than today,” California Apartment Association Senior Vice President of Local Public Affairs Fred Sutton said, adding that measures “long ago should have ended.” 

Landlords and owner-advocacy groups long argued that these regulations are no longer necessary and that they have allowed too many tenants to live rent-free for months or even years in rental properties. Many, including Sutton, bristled at the idea of adding new, permanent protections now. 

“It is inappropriate to use the pandemic crisis to rush through permanent regulations,” Sutton said. “It’s time to do the right thing and return to proper process.” 

In the council chambers, more than a dozen landlords and owner advocates raised yellow signs that read "We House LA" and "End It" as Sutton spoke, cheering when he finished. 

The new tenant protections are far-reaching and affect units beyond those that fall under the city’s rent-stabilization ordinance. Among them is an expansive just-cause eviction provision, which would specify that landlords would be able to evict tenants for one of about a dozen documented reasons, including nonpayment of rent or breaking a provision in the lease.

This rule is already in place for tenants living in rent-stabilized units, which make up the majority of rental units in the city of Los Angeles, but Tuesday's vote would broaden that to cover all rental units, even single-family homes. 

“These recommendations ensure that, once the eviction moratorium sunsets, we have a plan in place that protects our residents’ housing and preserves their financial well-being,” Council Member Nury Martinez said in a statement following the vote. “We must put in place long-term, permanent protections for tenants, while still preserving the livelihoods of our local mom-and-pop landlords.”

Tuesday's vote does not in itself put these new rules in place, but it does direct the city attorney to draft the rules that would allow these protections to be implemented and gives the same Jan. 31 deadline to enact them.

Tenant advocates and some council members underscored the importance of having the new protections in place before the pandemic-era rules about evictions end. 

"We can't create a gap in protections," Inner City Law Center Public Policy Advocate Sasha Harnden said.

"We remain a little bit skeptical that the aggressive timeline, but we remain pleased by the commitments of the council," she said.

The approved plan also includes a path to allowing landlords to resume annual allowable rent increases for rent-stabilized units. These rent increases have been paused since spring 2020. The allowable increases are between 3% and 8% annually, but the allowable amount is based on inflation, which hit a 40-year high over the summer.

Over the last two and a half years, those protections worked, Council Member Nithya Raman said, noting that during the height of the pandemic, there was a slight decrease in the city's homeless population. This wasn't a coincidence, Raman said.

“The protections that the city put in place to keep renters in their homes during this time of great turbulence and uncertainty did just that: It kept people in their homes," Raman said.

Bringing in new protections to replace those that are outgoing would be critical to continuing to keep Angelenos in their homes. 

Raman called out the universal just-cause protections, saying that they would be "a very important tool to limit and slow gentrification, displacement and homelessness in our communities." 

Apartment Association of Greater LA Executive Director Daniel Yukelson is wary of how these new protections will affect owners. 

"These were only supposed to be temporary measures," Yukelson told Bisnow in a phone interview Wednesday. 

"We don't really know what might go into an ordinance that ultimately gets drafted," Yukelson said. "As I've been saying for the last couple of months, be careful what you wish for, because we get an end to some of these Covid protections but now they're going to institute all these other tenant protections."