LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to end the city's moratorium on evictions, which has been in place since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Starting Feb. 1, 2023, landlords in the city will be able to start eviction proceedings against tenants for cause including not paying their rent or violating the terms of their lease.
The council also voted to end the rent freeze on rent-stabilized apartments — rental properties built before Oct, 1, 1978, not including single-family homes — on Jan. 31, 2024.
Two City Council members — Curren Price and Paul Krekorian — recused themselves from the vote because they own rental properties in the city. Another, Mike Bonin, was absent, having traveled to the East Coast to attend a friend's funeral, he said. Bonin, the most progressive councilman, likely would have voted 'no' on the proposal. In a lengthy tweet thread posted Monday, Bonin said the council's action was "based on a false narrative, being artfully spun by corporate landlords and their supporters."
He added: "What, if anything, will replace those protections and prevent people from falling into homelessness? Not nearly enough."
During the council meeting, City Council President Nury Martinez defended the ordinance, which will restart evictions but restrict them to "just cause" evictions, as an important compromise.
"Compromises are really important," she said, before adding, in an apparent reference to Bonin: "I think it’s so much easier for people to criticize and get on their tweet thread than bring a compromise."
Councilman John Lee, a former Republican and the only non-Democrat on the council, was more blunt, saying, "The moratorium served its purpose, but it's time to move on."
City Council member Nithya Raman, also a progressive, tried to convince her colleagues to extend the moratorium for another month.
"If we are serious about having protections in place before the moratorium lifts, it seems to me that we need a little more time," she said. Her proposed amendment failed by a vote of 4 to 8.
Los Angeles, which enacted some of the strongest emergency tenant protections in the nation, is also among the last to end them. The city has the largest population of unsheltered homeless people in the nation. Though that number may be flattening out, activists fear that a restart to evictions will lead to another surge in homelessness.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield likened the moratorium to a Band-aid, and said it was time to rip it off.
"There’s no great date to end it," he said. "We’re a very pro-tenant city. But even Los Angeles needs to recognize, there’s a time when the moratorium has to end."
Both tenant rights activists and landlords packed the council chambers, each pleading their case during the 45-minute public comment period.
"I worked hard all my life to buy a small apartment building," said Wayne Owens. "I got people in my property not paying rent. What the hell am I supposed to do?"
Another, calling himself Frank, who said he owned an apartment building in Venice, said he had a tenant who hadn't paid rent since the start of the pandemic — more than 2 1/2 years ago.
"I am angry beyond words at being forced to provide free housing indefinitely," he said. "Not all of us landlords are evil or well-financed corporations. I don’t want to evict anyone. I want to be able to collect rents in fair and reasonable way."
But Mateo, an organizer for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, said, "We need permanent tenant protections before emergency protections are phased out."
Tenant Teresa Herman warned homelessness will spike. "A lot of people will be living on the streets," she said. "We just want to have protections for all. Rents are so high. We earn minimum wage. We don’t want our children to end up on the streets."
Starting Dec. 1, tenants will have to "provide attestation" that they were economically affected by Covid-19 to be protected from eviction for another two months. Tenants who have not paid their rent during Covid will have until Feb. 1, 2024, to pay it off.Follow @hillelaron
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