The City of Los Angeles’ eviction moratorium is upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, potentially thwarting a Pasadena lawsuit.

August 29, 2021

The city of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 eviction ban was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, rejecting an attempt by Southern California’s largest landlord organization to overturn the limitation.

The lawsuit would not have had a direct influence on Pasadena’s eviction moratorium, but it could have spurred a similar challenge against the city’s moratorium.

A local moratorium currently protects virus-affected commercial and residential tenants in Pasadena, prohibiting evictions during a public health emergency.
Tenants in Pasadena will be obliged to repay their rent within six months of the emergency ending.

On June 11, 2020, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, challenging the eviction ban, bans on late fees and interest on unpaid rent, and annual rent rise moratorium.

The citywide rules designed to safeguard tenants amid the public health crisis were upheld by U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson in November. In December, the AAGLA, which represents 55,000 rental property owners and managers, filed an appeal.

Pregerson’s ruling was sustained by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Judge Daniel Aaron Bress, writing for the panel, stated that “the moratorium’s provisions were likely reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

According to Bress, there is “no apparent basis” for the landlord association’s claim that the moratorium violates the US Constitution’s Contracts Clause. “No State shall pass any… law undermining the Obligation of Contracts,” the clause states.

Public Counsel, which represented intervenors in the lawsuit, the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment Action and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, applauded the decision.

In a statement, Faizah Malik, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, stated, “Today’s ruling from the 9th Circuit appropriately defers to the city of Los Angeles on how to best protect its renters, using regulations that have kept thousands of individuals from being homeless during the pandemic.”

“We cannot ignore the importance of housing in achieving our public health objectives, and we will continue to strive to keep Angelenos stable and on their feet with rental assistance,” Maik wrote.

Executive Director Daniel Yukelson of the AAGLA told City News Service that the organization is willing to pursue the case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I believe that certain Supreme Court justices are interested in hearing a Contracts Clause issue, and this would be an excellent case for them to hear,” Yukelson said.

The city “properly connected the ban to its stated purpose of preventing displacement from houses, which the city reasonably argued could exacerbate the public health-related problems arising from the COVID-19 outbreak,” Bress concluded in the verdict. As a result, each of the eviction moratorium measures challenged by plaintiff could be seen as legitimate attempts to serve that valid public purpose.”

According to tenants’ rights groups, AAGLA’s lawsuit aimed to overturn the city’s eviction protection and rent freeze rules, allowing its members to carry out mass evictions during the pandemic.

The eviction moratoriums in Los Angeles County and California are slated to expire on September 30, but the city’s moratorium is related to its “Local Emergency Period.” Until August 1, 2022, the moratorium protects tenants who owe rent due to COVID-19. During the Local Emergency Period, no-fault evictions, such as for owner occupation, are forbidden.

The city has allocated $235 million and the state has committed more than $5 billion to help renters and landlords who lost revenue due to the pandemic. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that it would be adequate to cover 100% of the outstanding rent from April 2020 to September 2021.

During the pandemic, government agencies, including inside Los Angeles, provided rental assistance, as well as payment plans for utilities and penalty waivers for property taxes to reduce the strain on landlords, according to the court’s judgment.

“Although the connection between these numerous programs is complicated,” Bress said, “the availability of such relief, although not dispositive, remains significant in assessing the overall reasonableness of the City’s actions.”

According to Edna Monroy, head of organizing for SAJE, the COVID-19 problem has had the greatest impact on low-income tenants of color, who make up ACCE Action and SAJE’s membership base.

“Hundreds of thousands of households are at risk of being relocated if eviction protections are not in place,” Monroy warned. “The current safeguards are the result of years of hard work and organizing, and they have helped to avert a much worse calamity. It would be a humanitarian calamity to evict families while we are in the midst of another pandemic wave and a housing and homelessness crisis.”

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