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Housing and Homelessness

LA County Cancels Property Tax Late Fees For Landlords With Non-Paying Tenants

A "for rent" sign is posted in front of an apartment building in L.A.
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Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to cancel property tax late fees for landlords who haven’t received rent due to the county’s ongoing pandemic tenant protections.

The move comes after many small landlords have complained about needing to house tenants rent-free at a time when government rent relief funding has proven difficult to obtain.

Some of the landlords affected by the county’s eviction rules “are elderly individuals who depend on their rental income to make ends meet,” motion co-author Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement. “We can’t in good conscience balance COVID-19 relief on the backs of property owners.”

Under L.A. County’s current rules, low-income tenants who can’t pay rent because of pandemic-related economic harms will have protections against eviction over non-payment of rent until at least 2023.

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Some small landlords say their mortgages have gone into arrears after two years of missing rent payments. Other landlords, still waiting to receive promised aid from the state’s rent relief program, have sought to evict non-paying tenants.

Back in January, Barger cast the lone no vote against extending the county’s tenant protections. At the time, she called for the county’s tax office to report back on the feasibility of canceling property tax payments for landlords who haven’t been receiving rent.

County Treasurer and Tax Collector Keith Knox reported that under state law, he did not have the authority to suspend or alter property taxes. Property tax is a crucial revenue source, he said, one that remains relatively stable even during economic downturns. L.A. County is on track to collect nearly $23 billion in property taxes this year.

Instead, Knox said his office could grant waivers of “penalties, interest, costs, and fees under limited circumstances, including those beyond a taxpayer’s ability to control.”

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, landlords who can’t pay their next property tax installment by April 11 because of the county’s renter protections will soon be able to request cancellation of associated penalties. The county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs is planning to help with outreach.

“We’re going to do our best to push out the message,” Knox said, “so as many people that do need to avail themselves of this process can certainly be aware of it.”

Landlord advocacy groups supported the proposal, but called on the county to go further by rescinding pandemic-related tenant protections.

“County supervisors are beginning to recognize the challenges that landlords have experienced from COVID-19,” California Apartment Association spokesperson Mike Nemeth said in an email. “At this stage in the pandemic, however, with widespread vaccinations and infection rates having plummeted, it’s time for the county and the city to lift all pandemic-related regulations on the rental housing industry.”

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