Last month the Los Angeles City Council voted to end the eviction moratorium put in place during the pandemic. But the council seems to be stalling on making it official, because it still hasn’t been signed into ordinance. This is frustrating small landlords, who tell the I-Team that the city has been ignoring them throughout the pandemic, pushing them to financial disaster. All while, they say, some tenants are using the moratorium as a ticket to free housing.
A vacation to Paris and Hawaii, a cruise to Mexico where there’s swimming with dolphins, and short getaways to San Francisco, Yosemite, Big Bear.
Sounds nice, right? Landlords say these are all trips taken by their tenants, who haven’t been paying rent. They say it feels like they’re subsidizing their tenants’ vacations.
Monica, who didn’t want to use her last name for fear of retaliation by her tenant, says her tenant, who has a job, often didn’t pay rent throughout the pandemic. Yet, she took a vacation to Hawaii. Even now, still employed, Monica says her tenant has been paying very little, because the city of Los Angeles lets tenants off the hook for rent.
“My life decisions are put on hold by the government,” Monica said. “We are struggling and I don’t know how much longer I can sustain.”
Monica recovered some unpaid rent from the state, after it created a fund to help landlords recoup rent their tenants didn’t pay. But that fund has long dried up. Monica says her tenant owes her $23,000, pushing Monica to the brink of financial ruin.
“What this is going to do is throw all of us housing providers onto the streets as well,” she said.
Ky Trang Ho has four Los Angeles rental properties, which are her investments for retirement. She says tenants owe her $70,000 in unpaid rent. Yet, while they’ve been stiffing Ho on rent, they’re taking vacations and sending her threatening emails.
“I felt totally taken advantage of. And I was disgusted. To see how these people are living their best lives, and meanwhile I’m buying stuff from the ‘day of’ expiration shelf at the store because it means something to me to save $2 on bagels,” she said.
After a tense debate, the city council voted in October to end the moratorium on January 31, 2023, and require tenants to start paying rent again. But weeks later, that decision still hasn’t been signed into ordinance. And landlords say some council members, like Nithya Raman, who heads the housing committee, are stalling and trying to make last minute amendments, which landlords say will only further hurt them.
“All I do is lie awake at night wondering how I’m going to get all my tenants out,” said Ho.
Some council members have long argued they’re concerned that ending the moratorium will put tenants on the street. The California Apartment Association, a landlord trade group, says that burden shouldn’t fall on landlords.
“This is an emergency measure put in due to the Covid pandemic. And now we’re looking at other societal issues that LA has failed to address,” said Fred Sutton with the California Apartment Association. “If some of the council members truly want to help individuals who’ve fallen behind on rent and are struggling financially due to other causes in society, we should absolutely work on expanding and making permanent direct rental assistance to help those individuals.”
The I-Team wanted to interview council member Nithya Raman, but her staff told us she’s unavailable. We asked for a statement, but didn’t get that either.
In the meantime, small landlords are begging the council to end the moratorium as they’ve agreed.
“If I were to give you a comparison, it feels like I’m bound to this chair, my hands chopped off, my legs chopped off, and I have no options,” said Monica.
Small landlords tell the I-Team that when their tenants move out, they’ll sell their property, which will only make the city’s housing problem even worse. But they say they can no longer trust the city to look out for small landlords.
Source: NBC Los Angeles