Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium Upheld by Appeals Court
September 30 Update: The California eviction moratorium set to expire, but there are still options.
There’s a Los Angeles eviction moratorium, and it was just found to be legal. Making more headlines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal CDC eviction moratorium was not legitimate. This dealt a major setback for renters around the country. However, there was a development Wednesday about the Los Angeles eviction moratorium. This has been a topic of a lawsuit by Southern California’s largest landlord association to undo the restriction.
Back in June 2020, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles sued the city of Los Angeles challenging the Los Angeles eviction moratorium, ban on late fees, and interest on unpaid rent, as well as the restriction of annual rent increases. In November, a federal judge at the District Court issued an order that protects renters during the global pandemic, denying the request for an injunction. A month later, the AAGLA appealed.
The Ninth Circuit’s Ruling
This brings us to this August, 2021. Citing the landmark Contracts Clause case of Home Building & Loan Ass’n v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. 398 (1934), a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court judge’s ruling. This means the renter moratorium can continue. The challenge was specifically whether the Los Angeles eviction moratorium violated the U.S. Constitution’s Contracts Clause. The 9th Circuit ruled that it did not.
What’s interesting is the Ninth Circuit acknowledged the Supreme Court rulings on various challenges to eviction moratoria. However, it limited its review of the Los Angeles renter moratorium to merely interpreting whether the ban violated the Contract’s Clause of Article I, Section 10. Given that very narrow review, the Court of Appeals held that the restriction was “reasonable” and “appropriate.”
The Ninth Circuit opinion by Judge Daniel A. Bress wrote, “Thus, the eviction moratorium must be upheld, even if it is a substantial impairment of contractual relations, if its “adjustment of the rights and responsibilities of contracting parties is based upon reasonable conditions and is of a character appropriate to the public purpose justifying the legislation’s adoption.”
Then, turning to the legislation, the court wrote, “We need not decide whether the eviction moratorium is a substantial impairment of contractual relations because even assuming it is, given the challenges that COVID-19 presents, the moratorium’s provisions constitute an “appropriate and reasonable way to advance a significant and legitimate public purpose.”
Reaction to the Appellate Court’s Opinion
Locally, Public Counsel’s Faizah Malik wrote, ““We cannot deny the importance of housing in service of our public health goals and will continue to fight to help keep Angelenos stably housed and back on their feet with rental assistance.”
Daniel Yukelson, executive director for AAGLA said, “I understand that some of the justices of the Supreme Court are interested in hearing a Contracts Clause case and this one would be the right case for them to hear.”
So, for now, it’s another big setback for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. The Los Angeles eviction moratorium can continue, protecting the city’s renters.
What about the Supreme Court’s Ruling?
The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) just ruled that the CDC’s eviction moratorium was illegal. The rationale there was that only Congress can make laws, and because it was made by an executive administration, it was denied. If or when Congress does take up the issue, it will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court rules on the Due Process issue.
Also, given the AAGLA setback, it may appeal the Ninth Circuit decision to the Supreme Court.
Back here in the Ninth Circuit, because the AAGLA didn’t raise any Due Process arguments, the appellate court didn’t rule on them (opinion, fn 1). By the time this argument is raised to the Supreme Court, it’s quite possible the whole thing will be moot, because the pandemic will be over.
Wait, what about the California eviction moratorium?
While the national eviction ban is dead in the water until Congress passes legislation for one, there is still not one ban but two in place locally. The state has a California eviction moratorium, also. This protects all state renters from housing insecurity until September 30, 2021. This deadline has already been extended numerous times, and with the spread of the new Delta variant of COVID-19, it’s likely it will be extended again.
In fact, both the Los Angeles County eviction moratorium and California eviction moratorium are scheduled to expire September 30.
City of Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium
The city of Los Angeles has its own ban. There is a “Local Emergency Period” to which the City of Los Angeles connected its eviction moratorium. Legal challenges aside, even if the state and county restrictions end on Sept 30, 2021 (or after a lapsed subsequent extension), the city moratorium protects tenants from eviction August 1, 2022.
When all this ends, it’s possible that a bankruptcy can help catch up and keep you in your home.