Could There be Light at the End of the Tunnel for City of L.A. Moratoriums?
Executive Director Message
by Daniel Yukelson, Executive Director, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles
The old saying goes there could be “light at the end of the tunnel.” Many of our members have called or written emails asking me that very thing – could we finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel on the City of Los Angeles’s moratoriums on evictions and rent increases? Well, yes and no, perhaps. As things go in the City of Los Angeles, and as the famous Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin movie was aptly titled, “It’s Complicated.”
Yes, perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but as the pessimist in me might say, the light is from an oncoming train. If there is a “there, there” and an end to be given, we can only be mindful that there will surely be another “shoe to drop” on all our heads. There’s no letting go when it comes to the insatiable need to overregulate business enterprises in the City of Los Angeles, and in this case, a good crisis is not one to waste. Already, as a Los Angeles Housing Department report on ending the moratoriums has indicated, if there’s to be an eventual end to the moratoriums, then to placate tenant voters, a “give and take” will occur, where far more is to be given than received by the city’s rental housing providers. Surprised? Mother always told me “Be careful what you wish for.”
So here we are, well beyond two and a half years of moratoriums on evictions for non-payment and various lease violations, and during that same time prohibitions on increasing rent while inflation has soared to over 9% during some months and gas prices had topped-out at $7-to-$8 per gallon at one point. And, finally, here comes the City of Los Angeles now willing to discuss only the “possibility” of ending its moratoriums we call “Moratoriumism” by the end of the year, plus one year beyond that to repay past due rent owed and one additional year of no rent increases…one-year until December 31, 2023! Well, doesn’t that just make me sick!
How can a body of elected officials like the Los Angeles City (strike “c” in “city” and replace with “sh” if you ask me) Council ever think a business of any type or size might survive under conditions where no tools are allowed to collect revenue and no allowance is made to increase revenue during any period let alone a time when there’s hyper-inflation occurring. How can a City Council, knowing all that we know today after more than two and a half years and with vaccines and with treatments and with employers begging for workers to come to work, just stand there with a straight face and continue to declare that a “state of emergency” continues to exist in the City of Los Angeles? It just makes no rational sense and borders on insanity! It makes me wonder how these short-sighted adults elected to the City Council were raised – mom must have diapered them through high school and college because they apparently feel a need to babysit all the renters out there. I guess it is modeling of the parental skills they grew up under. They’re a bunch of “tenant babysitters” because they seemingly do not feel, as adults, tenants can fend for themselves and deal with the complexities of a written lease contract. Ugh!
So, what has been the outcome of all the past two plus years and what’s in store as we look forward until the end of 2023? Well, clearly the city’s rental housing providers have been hurt terribly and will continue to suffer the longer this “Moratorumism” goes on. Some just may not be able to hold on any longer, or not have the means (because they have liquidated savings or charged-up credit cards to survive) to pursue debt collection from unscrupulous renters who “gamed” the system by not paying rent for months or even years. How can someone today still claim they have been and still are being impacted by COVID (exceptions made for the elderly, immune suppressed, and some others) – I mean, why haven’t they tried getting a job to pay their rent? Perhaps some have gotten new jobs in this booming “sellers’ market” for workers willing to work, but still did not feel a need to pay their rent because of the protections they have in place?
The toll taken by the moratoriums on evictions and rent increases have not only hurt owners financially, but stress levels have increased enormously as owners have had to deal with “bad actor” tenants with no recourse available other than to just accept a continuing nuisance or lease scofflaw. Housing providers cannot possibly endure this continued no rent collections and no increases during this unprecedented inflationary period much longer. I hear from you, and I am saddened that many more of us are now looking for the exit ramp on this rental housing business. Some conspiracy theorists might say that this entire scheme, this “Moratoriumism,” has been a back door means by which the government, in this case the City of Los Angeles, can merely take over private property. However, unfortunately for the City of Los Angeles, it’s broke, which is why it continues increasing fees for services and increasing taxes despite not allowing rental property owners to increase rent. You see, what’s good for the goose here is not good for the gander.
Unfortunately, as I had mentioned, expecting finality to the so-called “temporary” emergency measures without a further taking of our “flesh and blood” is not going to happen. No way, no how will we be released “scot-free.” Already being recommended by the Los Angeles Housing Department in a report that must first be reviewed and discussed by two City of Los Angeles committees before being acted upon by the City Council is a whole complicated laundry list of additional tenant protections, including “just-cause” eviction protections that will be applicable to rental units not currently subject to the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. This is our “quid pro quo” for being released under “Moratoriumism.”
All this expansion of “just-cause” eviction regulations just may mean that not only will newer multifamily properties subject to state tenant protections or even exempt from any protections will be subjected to a long list of complicated eviction regulations. In addition, owners of single-family homes and condominiums who rent these homes, may also be victims of these tenant protections and eventually must pay for the pleasure of moving into their own home in an extortion scheme called “relocation payments!” If there’s a property or business that is free of regulation, let’s regulate it says the Los Angeles City Council.
It’s just sad that the City Council seemingly cannot help but to only listen to the crazy desires of vocal tenant organizations that espouse housing is a right on par with free speech and that housing should be provided for free. Yeah, and I would prefer not to have to pay my mortgage and property taxes, among other things. Apparently, the City Council believes in private welfare and treating tenants like children without imposing responsibilities to abide by a signed contract, which I find to be very sad. Yet, this entire time, some or perhaps many of you have experienced varying degrees fraud by “bad actor” tenants that have used the COVID protections to their advantage. I have read the stories and, in some cases, seen the evidence for myself of tenants who had gone for months or even years without paying rent while they purchased new cars, went to work each day, took vacations, and in some cases, even bought properties of their own. The complete unfairness and lack of respect the Los Angeles City Council has for housing providers is beyond disgusting. Except for John Lee, in my opinion, the whole lot of them have all acted like a bunch of pigs as they have been eating our properties out of the trough for two-plus years.
So, the next time a regulation is needed to help babysit tenants, how about we propose my idea. It’s very simple. A way to keep renters housed and free from eviction is for renters to pay their rent on time and abide by the terms of their lease agreement. And, for tenants that may be struggling to pay rent: (1) they can relocate to more affordable housing, or (2) apply for rental assistance or Section 8 vouchers. It can’t get any easier than that. Yet, the Los Angeles City Council just doesn’t get it.