LA County Extends Eviction Protections. Here’s What It Means For Local Renters
UPDATE: On March 31, 2022, California lawmakers passed AB 2179 and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who was acting governor while Gavin Newsom was on vacation, signed the bill into law. The new law extended eviction protections for rent relief applicants across the state through June 30. But it also stopped L.A. County’s new eviction protections from taking effect on April 1. Because of the state law, L.A. County tenants who were unable to pay April rent due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic — and renters who did not apply for rent relief before the state’s March 31 deadline — are no longer protected from eviction over non-payment of rent. Our original article on the protections passed by L.A. County on Jan. 25, 2022 follows:
Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend countywide eviction protections through the end of this year. The board also continued a freeze on rent hikes for many tenants in unincorporated parts of the county.
Even with protections, LA renters have been had by loopholes before. Here's a major flaw in a state law meant to prevent evictions.
Under the new rules, landlords will not be able to evict low-income tenants hurt by COVID-19 over non-payment of rent until at least 2023. However, the approved plan will begin to gradually phase out other renter protections later this year.
Housing advocates supported the move, arguing that without an extension, struggling renters would have been vulnerable to eviction as early as next Tuesday, Feb. 1.
“It's a recognition by the county that this pandemic is not over, and that we can't simply eliminate all the protections,” said Jonathan Jager, an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Landlords strongly protested the extensions, urging a swift return to pre-pandemic rules. They said property owners have shouldered the cost of tenants deferring rent for close to two years now — and will potentially do so for up to almost another year under the new rules.
“The supposed ‘interim’ emergency measures imposed by the county have gone on way too long and must now be replaced with long-term, workable solutions based on our situation that is in existence today,” said Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.
The new rules will add yet another layer of complexity to the ever-shifting local and state renter protections passed during the pandemic.
Here’s what all the new changes mean for L.A. County renters:
Extension Averts Looming Feb. 1 Eviction Cliff
L.A. County’s current tenant protections were slated to expire after Jan. 31. With Tuesday’s vote, those provisions will continue, including rules barring “no-fault” evictions.
These “no-fault” evictions occur when tenants have done nothing wrong, but landlords want to remove them to do things like conduct extensive renovations, move in family members or take units off the rental market.
Without an extension of the current protections, renters across L.A. County could have soon found themselves kicked out of their homes, said Trinidad Ocampo, an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of L.A. County.
“We might have seen a wave of those evictions happening,” she said. “But those tenants now have a defense to say that, well, this no-fault eviction is not permissible until later in the year.”
The extension also continues rules against evictions over tenant nuisances or unauthorized occupants and pets. Starting in June, landlords will again be able to pursue certain no-fault evictions — such as owner move-in evictions — under limited circumstances.
Coming April 1: Eviction Protections Return For Those Who Can’t Pay Rent
Perhaps the most significant change will be the return of L.A. County’s ban on evictions over non-payment of rent.
This protection already existed earlier in the pandemic. But late last year, changes in state law superseded the county’s rules.
Since Oct. 2021, landlords have been able to pursue evictions over non-payment of rent, with one important caveat: State law still provides eviction protections to those who’ve applied for rent relief. That provision in state law is set to expire after March 31.
With Tuesday’s vote, L.A. County is now set to reinstate the earlier, stronger protection against eviction over non-payment of rent starting on April 1.
Housing advocates said renters who’ve lost income during the pandemic need that protection to know they won’t be facing potential homelessness in a few months.
“In our work, we know a lot of tenants are counting on this protection in order to just stay in their homes,” said Alex Flores, an eviction attorney with the L.A.-based Housing Rights Center.
Changes Coming On June 1 During ‘Phase Two’
The county will roll out its new protections in phases. The eviction protection for non-payment of rent will return for all county renters on April 1.
But starting on June 1 in “phase two,” that protection will only apply to renters earning up to 80% of the area’s median income. In L.A., that’s $94,560 per year for a family of four. To claim this protection after June 1, tenants will need to self-certify that they meet the income requirements.
Also starting in June, landlords can once again evict tenants for denying entry into an apartment.
Earlier in the pandemic, county leaders wanted to limit interactions between households to stop transmission of COVID-19. But that restriction goes away in phase two. However, the county’s new rules state landlords can’t use the right to enter units for the purpose of tenant harassment.
Rent Freeze Continues For Many Tenants In Unincorporated L.A. County
The Board of Supervisors also approved a continued freeze on rent increases for tenants living in rent-controlled housing within unincorporated parts of the county. Tenants covered by that rent freeze will not receive a rent hike until at least 2023.
This provision matches a similar rent freeze in the city of Los Angeles, which currently has its own tenant protections in place. Those protections will continue for city residents, since the county’s rules allow for stronger protections to take precedent at the city level.
Housing advocates have argued that continued tenant protections are needed in part because government rent relief has been slow to reach households in need.
State data shows that about $975 million in rent relief has been delivered to county households so far, but most applicants in L.A. have still not received funding.
“We don't want to reach early April and have tenants being evicted en masse while they're still waiting for relief to come through,” said Flores.
Landlords are also frustrated by the slow delivery of rent relief.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the lone no vote on the extension, saying the plan gives landlords no clear end in sight. After the vote, she introduced a motion asking for the county to explore the possibility of forgiving or postponing property tax payments for landlords who aren't receiving rent as a result of the eviction moratorium.
“It has become clear to me that our county does not have enough skin in this game,” Barger said. “This board is asking landlords to shoulder a burden for those who have been impacted by COVID-19. We should also be willing to bear the same burden.”