Landlord Groups File Lawsuit Against Los Angeles County Over Illegal Eviction Moratorium Latest Legal Maneuver Seeks Emergency Relief from the County’s Residential Eviction Ban
Legal Move Follows County’s Recent Extension of So-Called “Temporary” Eviction
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – March 8, 2022: The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) and the Apartment Owners Association of California, Inc. (AOA) announced today that they have filed a joint lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court for the State of California on behalf of their members and the County’s rental housing providers seeking a Preliminary Injunction against the County of Los Angeles’s residential eviction moratorium. The move follows nearly on the heels of the County of Los Angeles’s recent extension of the County’s “temporary” COVID-19 related residential eviction protections until June 30, 2023.
On January 25, 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to extend its “temporary” eviction moratorium in three separate phases leaving eviction protections in place until June 30, 2023. These same or similar “temporary” residential eviction protections have been in place since approximately March 2020, and in establishing these protections, the County has claimed jurisdiction not only over unincorporated areas, but also most of the incorporated cities within the County.
In their joint complaint, AOA and AAGLA have declared that there is no rational basis for extending the eviction moratorium and creating what is, in effect, a “rent holiday” that has not only allowed the County’s renters to remain housed without paying rent for up to two years, but which has now been extended by the County until June 2023. The joint lawsuit hinges upon the County’s permitted self
certification practice which allows renters to merely declare they have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 without offering any kind of proof or being required to provide a declaration of COVID-19 impact under penalty of perjury to their landlord. According to the lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent ruling, has declared self-certification “schemes” like Los Angeles County’s are unconstitutional:
“In August 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States in Chrysafis vs. Marks (2021) 141 S. Ct. 2482, granted an application for injunctive relief against nearly identical self-certification provisions in New York state law prohibiting COVID-19-related evictions. Under the law enjoined by the Court, ‘[i]f a tenant self-certifies financial hardship, [the state law] generally precludes a landlord from contesting that certification and denies the landlord a hearing.’ Under principles of procedural due process, the Court held that the scheme “violates the Court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the Due Process Clause.”
The joint lawsuit further asserts that the County’s Moratorium runs afoul of substantive due process guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it is not a rational means of advancing legitimate state interests. The joint lawsuit is seeking an order invalidating the County’s eviction ban.
Jeffrey Faller, President of AOA stated: “For nearly two years, more than 700 days, some renters have taken advantage of the situation created by the County’s ordinance and been able to forgo rent payments by alleging they have been impacted by COVID-19 without any burden of proof. The unsubstantiated ‘Financial Impacts’ of any tenant’s self-certification are woefully vague. Tenants are merely allowed to unilaterally decide to not pay rent based on the facts and circumstances they determine.” Faller further commented: “Eviction bans such as the County’s merely encourage unscrupulous renters to skip paying rent with past due rental debts continually piling up that in most instances will never be repaid. How could this create a situation that is good for renters let alone housing providers? Moratoria on evictions are unfair for those residents who have worked hard and sacrificed to pay their rent. Many of our property owning members have been forced to sit idly by as their renters have forgone making rent payments for months and in some cases years while at the same time making major purchases of luxury automobiles or expensive vacations owners view on Facebook.. From the very beginning, the ‘solution’ should have consisted of rental relief provided by our government, not a ‘free-pass’ on rent.”
AAGLA’s Executive Director, Daniel Yukelson, stated: “Nearly two years into this pandemic, with State and Federal eviction bans now having expired long ago, with business back to normal, and following a major event like the Super Bowl here in the Los Angeles Area, it is nonsensical for the County to continue to impose its eviction ban that will remain in place until June 30, 2023. No other business other than the rental housing business has been singled-out and forced to provide services for free.” Mr. Yukelson further stated: “The County’s ongoing eviction ban and recent extension provides benefits to renters well beyond those that had been provided by State or the Federal government through their now expired protections, and, accordingly, the County is exposed to significant liability risk for the damages associated with its eviction ban.”
AAGLA and AOA have asserted that the County’s moratorium has gone way beyond what is necessary by providing benefits to the County’s renters at the expense of all landlords, particularly the small business, “mom and pop” property owners who make-up most rental property owners in the County. AAGLA’s Executive Director, Daniel Yukelson stated: “The County’s rental property owners have been suffering financially for nearly 2-years without rent collections, while at the same time being required to meet a variety of ongoing financial obligations.”
AOA’s President, Jeffrey Faller, further emphasized: “Landlords in the County continue to suffer under the County’s ordinance with no relief or assistance of any kind offered to help those landlords who are clearly struggling financially. Despite the availability of State rental assistance funds, many landlords are finding that tenants merely do not qualify for relief, approvals and funding are slow to non-existent, and many tenants are not cooperative or have moved on. It’s a big problem and a major financial burden that has been placed on the backs of small owners.”
AAGLA’s Board of Directors President, Cheryl Turner, stated: “The County’s use of the Pandemic to wield unlimited power and singling-out rental property owners to subsidize the livelihoods of others, interfering with contractual relationships between landlords and their tenants, and stripping away all the
tools and flexibility required to collect rent or workout repayments of rent are clear violations of law. None of us have sacrificed, nor risked our capital and livelihoods merely to provide private welfare – that is government’s job to do.”
Commenting on the severe financial hardships being experienced by housing providers resulting from the County’s moratoriums, AOA’s Founder, Daniel Faller, stated: “As a result of the County’s imposed restrictions and interfering with our housing providers’ contractual relationships with tenants, many of the County’s housing providers struggle today to make ends meet and are losing their properties through foreclosure. Following months of not paying rent, renters will have no means to pay back what may surely amount to mountains of rental debts, particularly if they struggle to pay just one month’s rent. It is a fallacy to ever think that landlords will recover the past due rent owed them other than perhaps pennies on the dollar.”
AAGLA and AOA are represented by attorney Douglas J. Dennington of Rutan & Tucker LLP of Irvine. Mr. Dennington stated: “More recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings are highly favorable to our case whereby the Court granted injunctive relief for nearly identical self-certification provisions contained in New York state law prohibiting COVID-19-related evictions.”
On June 11, 2020, AAGLA filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles on behalf of its members and the City’s housing providers asserting, among other things, a constitutional challenge to the City’s moratoriums on evictions and on rent increases. Following denial at the U.S. District Court and U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, AAGLA filed a Petition for Certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court. Recently AAGLA announced it had been notified that the Supreme Court ordered the City of Los Angeles to respond to its Petition for Certiorari by March 2022. Executive Director, Daniel Yukelson stated: “While this development is potentially very positive, we are being extremely careful to not read much into this since the Court could very well still deny the petition outright even after the City responds. However, this is at least a good sign as the U.S. Supreme Court does not request responses on most petitions.”
Founded in 1917, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles seeks to promote the highest levels of professionalism within the multifamily rental housing industry. It provides a wide array of services and benefits that meet the needs of rental housing providers of all sizes, including educational seminars and member events, expert operational advice, and an extensive library of lease agreements and other forms needed to successfully own and manage rental properties. The Association also serves as a powerful advocate and lobbyist for rental housing providers at the local, county, state, and federal levels of government. For more information, go to: www.aagla.org/legalfund.
The Apartment Owners Association of California, Inc. (AOA) is the largest individually-organized group of apartment owners in California. AOA members enjoy free downloadable forms, access to advisors who provide free property management advice, low-cost tenant screening, the most widely circulated apartment industry magazine in the state, Million Dollar Trade Shows, and many other member benefits. At the beginning of the pandemic, AOA decided to provide free COVID forms and free educational content on YouTube to members and non-members alike as a sign of solidarity. AOA is committed to supporting rental property owners with the resources needed to make the business of providing housing more profitable, easier, and more enjoyable.
Jeffrey Faller, President
Apartment Owners Association of California, Inc.
Telephone: (818) 988-9200; Ext. 121
Daniel M. Yukelson, Executive Director
Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles
Telephone: (213) 384-4131; Ext. 322