LA County barring evictions because of rising flu cases

LA County barring evictions because of rising flu cases
New York City public housing project

First, the coronavirus pandemic was an excuse for forcing landlords to keep renting to tenants who won’t pay their rent. Now, flu outbreaks are an excuse, too, in progressive Los Angeles County.  One of the nation’s longest-lasting eviction bans will continue a bit longer. Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a one-month extension of its eviction moratorium, citing rising cases of flu, COVID, and other respiratory illnesses.

Reason Magazine reports:

A motion approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week prohibits the eviction of lower-income delinquent tenants who claim a COVID-19-related financial hardship through the end of January 2023. Renters also can’t be removed for causing nuisances or having unauthorized pets and occupants.

The same motion asks county staff to study the feasibility of extending the moratorium through the end of June 2023, or over three years after the original May 31, 2020 expiration date for the county’s eviction ban.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our housing crisis, and experts fear an ‘eviction tsunami’ is on the horizon if we don’t take bold, swift action,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis on Twitter last week, shortly before the board approved the one-month extension. “Our families need eviction protections for at least an additional 6 months.”

Landlords say the county’s decision imperils their businesses in the name of responding to an emergency that’s long since passed.

“We just don’t know where it’s going to end at this point,” says Daniel Yukelson, the executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA). “It’s been a severe financial strain that’s been put on the backs of what are mostly independent, small rental property owners that have had to deal with COVID in their own families.”…That policy was supposed to sunset at the end of the year. The board of supervisors says the extension through the end of January is necessary given the “respiratory illness trifecta” of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases….The federal government, almost all states, and many local governments adopted moratoriums on removing tenants for nonpayment of rent early in the pandemic. Moratorium supporters argued that the policies were necessary to preserve unemployed tenants’ ability to abide by the lockdown orders that had also cost them a job and the ability to pay rent.

The lockdowns eventually ended, vaccines became universally available, and people went back to work. Nevertheless, moratoriums persisted, now justified by the need to give more time for federally funded rental aid to reach tenants who’d accumulated huge rental debts while eviction bans were in place. Tenant advocates claimed that ending moratoriums before then would cause an “eviction tsunami.”

Federal rental assistance has now largely been spent, a federal eviction moratorium was struck down by the Supreme Court, and that eviction tsunami never quite materialized. A general, belated return to normality has seen almost all remaining state and local eviction bans end.

But Los Angeles officials have proven more resistant to letting their moratorium lapse.

Neil Seidel is the owner of six single-family rental properties in Los Angeles. He had one tenant who’s racked up $100,000 in unpaid rent at one property since March 2020. The tenant allowed unauthorized guests to stay there, who damaged the property. The tenant claimed hardship from COVID, which was bogus given that she is currently employed as an executive at a medical company. Federal financial disclosures show that his tenant continued to file reports for the company as their chief financial officer as recently as this month.

Banning evictions economically destroys some small landlords. The New York Post told the story of 88-year-old Harlem landlord David Howson, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and has a tenant who hadn’t paid rent since 2016. “We are completely destitute,” said Howson’s daughter.

Some renters won’t pay rent, even when government assistance would enable them to do so. One landlord said, “We have a renter in one of our properties who just stopped paying recently and stopped returning phone calls, apparently changed her number. What’s really infuriating is that our state has a fund for rental assistance with millions still in it and she won’t apply.”

“A landlord says her tenants are terrorizing her. She can’t evict them,” reports the New York Times:

For more than a year, Vanie Mangal, a physician assistant…watched as patients gasped their final breaths…Mangal found no respite from stress when she went home. She is a landlord who rents the basement and first-floor apartments at her home in Queens…The first-floor tenants have not paid rent in 15 months, bang on the ceiling below her bed at all hours for no apparent reason and yell, curse and spit at her, Mangal said. A tenant in the basement apartment also stopped paying rent, keyed Mangal’s car and dumped packages meant for her by the garbage….Mangal — who has captured many of her tenants’ actions on surveillance video — has not only lost sleep from the tensions inside her two-story home but also $36,600 in rental income.

The longer the eviction bans last, the more unpaid rent will never be recovered. Many renters are judgment proof, so landlords won’t be able to collect back rent from them ever — even if they eventually get evicted after the eviction ban ends. Landlords still owe mortgage payments and property taxes, even when rent is unpaid. As the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson noted in the Washington Post, “Small landlords across the country are being expropriated.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


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