It is Premature to End COVID-19 Tenant Protections

The Beverly Hills Rent Stabilization Commission on September 1st will likely decide whether to recommend to City Council that tenant protections enacted under the city’s pandemic emergency declaration be ended or amended. We believe that is premature to allow the moratorium to expire while tenants economically affected by COVID-19 struggle back to normalcy.

At the last meeting the Rent Stabilization commissioners agreed to recommend to City Council that the local moratorium on eviction for nonpayment be effectively ended by aligning it with the state moratorium. However commissioners could find no agreement on two provisions enacted during the pandemic: a prohibition on rent increases and a prohibition on no-fault evictions. But they seemed to lean toward ending those protections too.

At the upcoming meeting on Wednesday, September 1st the discussion will continue. The staff report boils-down the commission’s options to three:

  1. Recommend that the City Council not make any further modifications to the Urgency Ordinance.
  2. Recommend that the City Council make modifications to the Urgency Ordinance to end the moratoriums on no fault evictions and rent increases prior to end of the local emergency.
  3. Recommend that the City council make modifications to the Urgency Ordinance to provide new or expanded protections for residential tenants.

Why We Think It’s Premature to End the Rent-Increase Moratorium

There is too much uncertainty. The pandemic appeared to be receding in July. The county and state even stepped back from pandemic-era precautions. But precautions have returned due to coronavirus variants. When will we be able to return to normal?

For many households it is not an issue. Some saved money. But untold others saw a significant setback and some of those households have yet to recover. Policymakers must take care of the most vulnerable among us and, specifically, must assure those who are ‘precariously-housed’ a measure of stability. The moratoriums were intended to provide that stability and we believe that households still need those protections.

There is no rationale for ending the moratorium on rent increases now. The commission’s two landlord representatives want to end or amend the moratorium on rent increases. But tenant representatives want a way to cushion the blow of a doubled rent increase. The muddled, stalemated discussion that unfolded over several hours didn’t cite a rationale for ending the moratorium.

There is no plan to protect tenants from a doubled rent increase. Renters Alliance first broke the news about the prospect of a doubled rent increase back in February. In the meanwhile, the city was silent about it. So the commission’s tenant representatives were shocked at the prospect of a doubled rent increase. (They should be reading our website!) Until there is a plan to ensure that tenants will face only a single rent increase in any 12-month period it is premature to recommend that the moratorium end.

Deviating from the existing 12-month rent-increase schedule will invite confusion. The rent stabilization ordinance specifies only one increase every 12 months. Why deviate from that restriction? Tenants who receive an unexpected second rent increase will pick up the phone and call the city. Staff will be deluged with increases that need investigating. There is not enough staff to dig into thousands of complaints.

If the moratorium is to end, though, City Council should ensure that landlords are denied a second rent increase until at least 12 months have elapsed after the initial post-pandemic rent increase. Council needs only strike this problematic passage from the emergency ordinance:

Nothing in this Ordinance shall alter the date of annual rent increases in future years.

That bit is included in section 4 of the current urgency ordinance and it would allow a second rent increase before 12 months have elapsed.

We suggest that the Rent Stabilization Commission take no action on the rent-increase moratorium.

Why We Think It’s Premature to End the Moratorium on No-Fault Eviction

All Beverly Hills tenants are protected against no-fault eviction until City Council ends the local emergency or otherwise amends the local emergency ordinance. What happens when that moratorium ends? Landlords can resume no-fault evictions. That includes those in progress before the pandemic (which were ‘tolled’ by the ordinance) or evictions that can proceed more-or-less in 90 days after tenants are notified.

Tenants can only be evicted for no-fault according to any one of the reasons enumerated in section 4–6–6 of the rent stabilization ordinance such as use of a unit by the landlord, (subsection H), demolition or condominium conversion of the property (J), major remodeling of two or more units (K), or simply upon the owner’s decision to cease the offering of rented accommodations (L).

A relocation fee is always required in a no-fault termination. On September 1st the commission will also be discussing relocation fees. Read more: Relocation Fees Come BACK to RSO Commission.)

The moratorium on no-fault evictions offered tenants a measure of stability during the pandemic. Once it ends we will see owners move to empty and eventually demolish rental properties for redevelopment. Those tenants will be looking for replacement housing in a tight landlords’ market it seems.

We propose that the Rent Stabilization Commission take no action on the no-fault eviction moratorium.

Again, given the concerns about continuing contagion and uncertainty around ending or extending local emergency declarations, it seems only prudent not to move too fast. Why foist additional uncertainty upon tenants at a time when some tenants are faced with the prospect of double rent increases AND catching up on back rent?

You can have a say in the commission discussion. The commission welcomes public input! Comment on item #1 on the agenda.

near the beginning of the meeting on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 at 6 pm.

You can either email a comment to the commission in advance and it will be read at the meeting. Send it to commentRSC@beverlyhills.org (put “agenda item #1” in the subject line). Or talk directly to the commissioners by calling 310–285–1020 (choose the comment menu option) as the item is heard. Item #1 will come shortly after the meeting begins.

Wallflowers can watch the meeting live on Channel 10 (BHTV) or live online.

Do you have a concern about either of these moratorium provisions? Please get in touch with Renters Alliance!