RSO Commission Recommends Moratorium on Eviction for Nonpayment to End

The Beverly Hills Rent Stabilization Commission has recommended that city council sunset our local moratorium’s prohibition on eviction for nonpayment as soon as September 30th. The recommendation was suggested by the Apartment Owners Association and supported by landlord representatives on the commission and it passed by a vote of 4-2. If city council agreed then we could see local tenant protections end as soon as Sacramento decides to sunset its own moratorium. Will the commission follow with a recommendation to end the prohibition on rent increases and no-fault evictions too?

Background

The Rent Stabilization Commission was discussing the issue because city council in July referred it to the commission while considering whether to end or amend commercial aspects of the COVID–19 emergency order. “As the State and County have recently loosened their emergency regulations regarding COVID–19,” the council’s July 15th staff report said, “Staff believes it is appropriate for the City Council to further examine its emergency regulations and determine whether some or all of them could be repealed or amended.”

City Council’s focus was on commercial tenant provisions as well as the temporary measures (like suspended parking enforcement and relaxed collection of business taxes) enacted during the COVID–19 emergency. But the county abruptly tightened COVID restrictions and city council decided to “table indefinitely” the question of whether to amend or end commercial aspects of the local emergency order.

However city council did refer to the Rent Stabilization Commission the question of whether to end or amend the residential tenant protections enacted by the emergency order. So at the commission’s August 4th meeting the commissioners discussed amendments to the residential tenant provisions of the urgency ordinance (20-O-2818).

There were three provisions under discussion by commissioners:

  1. Moratorium on eviction for nonpayment;
  2. Moratorium on rent increases; and,
  3. Moratorium on eviction for any no-fault reason allowed by law.

Read the RSO commission staff report for a fuller explanation of what was before the commissioners on August 4th.

Commissioners discussed all three moratorium provisions however only formally recommended to city council that the moratorium on eviction for nonpayment provision be amended. Specifically the commission majority voted to recommend that city council align our local moratorium on eviction for nonpayment with the state’s moratorium on eviction for nonpayment.

If adopted by city council in the form of an amended COVID-19 emergency order, the commission’s recommendation would tie the expiration of our this protection to the state’s moratorium schedule. What does that mean?

Today under our the Beverly Hills declaration of local emergency due to COVID–19, a tenant suffering hardship due to COVID-19 can continue to delay the payment of rent until such time as the emergency declaration is rescinded. As recommended by the commission, tenants will begin to pay full rent starting October 1st unless the state extends the moratorium.

Today our local emergency order allows tenants a one-year repayment period which begins only after the local emergency is ended. The commission’s recommendation would start the rent-repayment one-year clock ticking as early as September 30th and back rent delayed under the local moratorium must be repaid one year later.

The two other moratorium provisions discussed by the commission are not addressed by the state’s moratorium: the prohibition on rent increases, which is purely a local measure; and the prohibition on eviction for reasons other than nonpayment which was not included in AB 832. Beverly Hills tenants are protected today but the commission has indicated an interest to wind those down too but deferred action until the September meeting.

Let’s look more clearly at the commission’s recommendation to align our local moratorium on eviction for nonpayment to the state’s moratorium.

Commission Recommends to Align Local Moratorium With State Law

Vice-Chair Neal Basemen, a landlord representative, proposed at the August 4th meeting to align the expiration of our moratorium on eviction for nonpayment with the state’s moratorium. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Frances Miller, also a landlord representative, and was supported by both at-large Commissioner Lou Milkowski and tenant-representative Commissioner Zachary Sokoloff. The motion carried by a 4–2 vote.

If city council agrees with the commission’s recommendation then tenants in Beverly Hills will see full rent payment would commence starting October 1st and the deadline for repayment of all rent delayed under our local moratorium would be September 30, 2022. (Rent delayed under the state moratorium is repaid differently. Read more in the recent RSO update.)

Voting against the motion were Commissioner Kathy Bronte, also an appointed tenant representative, and at-large Commissioner Donna Tryfman. The successful motion to recommend alignment with the state moratorium followed a prior defeated motion that would have recommended that the city not back-off tenant protections in light of renewed concerns about coronavirus transmissibility. Indeed just two weeks earlier, city council choose not to amend the commercial tenancy provisions. However the ‘no change’ recommendation motion failed on a 3–3 vote (with at-large commissioner Milkowsky casting the deciding vote).

The commission also discussed the moratorium on rent increases but came to no conclusion as time simply ran out. (The meeting lasted nearly four hours. Watch the meeting video.) A third COVID–19 tenant protection — the moratorium on evictions when the tenant is not at fault — was continued for discussion to the next regular meeting along with the moratorium on rent increases. The commission meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m.

Our Take

The landlord representatives on the commission voiced concern about the effect on property owners of continued COVID–19 tenant protections. Judging by the discussion they appear interested to see all aspects of the moratorium expire as quickly as possible. That position is understandable as they were appointed to their designated seats specifically to represent landlord interests before the commission.

Here landlord representatives can take their cue from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. AAGLA provided the following statement to urge Rent Stabilization commissioners to align our moratorium’s tenant protections with those in state moratorium.

During the last 16 months only rental housing providers have been required by government mandate to provide services without compensation. Many small and medium rental housing providers have exhausted personal savings to maintain essential building operations and pay for living expenses. Now they’re on the brink of foreclosure or forced sale and may permanently exit the housing industry. As a result much of the affordable housing in beverly hills will be lost.

As it happened the commission did vote to recommend that the moratorium on eviction for nonpayment be aligned with the state moratorium. Watch the meeting video for the discussion.

We don’t see much evidence to support those claims. Relatively few tenants applied for the city’s rent-relief program, for example, and rental industry surveys say that fewer tenants in California have failed to pay rent than was expected at the outset of the COVID shutdown. Moreover it appears that landlords are taking advantage of the hot rental market. Beverly Hills rental unit registry data shows that rent paid by tenants who moved in during 2020 was barely off the record-high rents paid by tenants who had moved-in during the 2016–2020 period — which was a period of fast-rising rents as tenants well know.

Are landlords really out of pocket due to the moratorium? Or are higher rents on new leases actually providing a cushion for any losses on delayed rent? We can’t say for sure because we have no data. Landlords, both individually and as a class, never tip their hand as to revenue and expenses. Yet their industry association AAGLA never fails to claim harm.

None of the rental unit registry data was provided to the commission, unfortunately, which allowed the discussion to unspool at length informed by speculation and the specious AAGLA claims. That is a shame; the data could have persuaded newly-appointed tenant representative Commissioner Zachary Sokoloff not side with landlords. Two weeks ago city council deferred any decision on COVID–19 emergency measures due to uncertainty about state and county COVID–19 orders. It seems hasty for the commission to have recommended the protection against eviction for nonpayment expire on the state moratorium timetable.

Additional Resources