Rent Stabilization Commission Recommends End to Moratorium Protections

If the Rent Stabilization Commission has its way, all moratorium protections for tenants that were enacted during the pandemic would come to an immediate end. Commissioners have recommended to City Council that payment of full rent should resume — and that no-fault evictions and evictions for nonpayment should go forward too. Rent increases would also resume as early as December if City Council agrees at its October 26th meeting.

The backstory: City Council in July tasked the Rent Stabilization Commission with discussing whether, or when, to end tenant protections related to COVID–19. Council was also to discuss amendments to the city’s COVID urgency ordinance that has been in place for a year. However council decided against modifying it as councilmembers were mindful of the Delta variant and continued uncertainty concerning state and county COVID guidelines.

However City Council did give the go-ahead to the Rent Stabilization Commission to discuss whether or not to end the residential moratoriums.

Commission Votes to End Moratorium Protections

The Rent Stabilization Commission first voted on August 4th to recommend that City Council end the moratorium on eviction for nonpayment when the state moratorium expired. (At the time that was expected to be September 30th and indeed the state moratorium did subsequently expire on that date.) The motion to recommend repeal of moratorium provision was made and seconded by the commission’s two landlord representatives, Commissioner Frances Miller and Vice Chair Neal Baseman.

The landlord representatives cited landlord hardship and suggested that landlords bore the brunt of the COVID–19 economic crisis. Both have pressed repeatedly in commission meetings to end moratorium protections. The commission carried the motion by a 4–2 majority. One of our two tenant representatives, Zachary Sokoloff, supported the landlords; our tenant representative, Kathy Bronte, and one at-large (i.e., neutral) member, Donna Tryfman, opposed it. Watch the August 4th moratorium discussion on video.

At the next meeting in September, the Rent Stabilization Commission agreed to recommend that City Council bring to an end the other two pillars of the residential COVID–19 moratorium: the prohibition on no-fault eviction and the prohibition on rent increases. Again it was the landlord commissioners who pressed for an end to tenant protections and who largely drove the discussion.

Again the landlords that they (as a class) were unduly burdened by the moratorium. But they provided no support for the claim. The available industry surveys suggest that most landlords are receiving rent. That is supported by the fact that relatively few tenants applied for rent relief under our city’s brief assistance program.

The commission vote was again 4–2 in favor of recommending and end to the moratorium provisions concerning no-fault evictions and rent increases. This time the commission’s two at-large (i.e., neutral) commissioners sided with the landlords: Commissioner Donna Tryfman and Vice Chair Neal Baseman. Our two tenant representatives dissented. Watch the September 13th moratorium discussion on video.

Then in early October the Rent Stabilization Commission voted to wrap-up the two recommendations in a formal resolution to end all three moratorium tenant protections. The motion was made by at-large Commissioner Donna Tryfman and seconded by landlord representative Vice-Chair Baseman. The vote on the formal resolution carried again by a vote of 4–2. Both of our two tenant representatives dissented. Watch the October 6th moratorium discussion on video.

The Rent Stabilization Commission voted three times to eliminate COVID–19 tenant protections but you didn’t hear a word about it from the rent stabilization division, right? Somehow it is the RSO office’s policy not to inform tenants about commission business.

Next Step: City Council on October 26th

City Council will consider the Rent Stabilization Commission’s recommendation to end moratorium tenant protections on Tuesday October 26, 2021 in the evening session which begins at 7 pm. Find it under new business item F1 on the agenda.

The description dryly reads: “Resolution of the Rent Stabilization Commission recommending to the City Council amendments to the City Council ordinance no. 20-O–2818 in connection with the temporary moratoria on evictions and rent increases during the local emergency.” Maybe you will agree that it does not suggest the gravity of ending all pandemic-era tenant protections.

You wouldn’t know that City Council is presented with the commission’s recommendation to bring an immediate end to these protections:

  1. Moratorium on eviction for non-payment;
  2. Moratorium on no-fault evictions for residential tenants;
  3. Moratorium on annual rent increases.

Council can choose to follow the Rent Stabilization Commission’s recommendation on any or all of the three moratorium tenant protections; or it can choose a date to end any or all of them; or it can take no action.

It is worth noting that only the tenant-protection measures in urgency ordinance 20-O-2818 are on the chopping block. There is no proposed change to COVID–19 business supports. The urgency ordinance is well over a year old now and City Council appears not in a hurry to modify any other aspect of it.

What Happens If Moratorium Tenant Protections Expire?

If City Council lets the all three pillars of the residential moratorium expire then :

  • COVID–19 affected tenants who occupy rent-stabilized units, single-family homes, or condominiums, and who have delayed the payment of rent under our local moratorium, will now be obligated to pay full rent. Full rent would start on the rent due date after the moratorium expires.
  • Tenants who occupy rent-stabilized units, single-family homes, or condominiums, and who were noticed about a no-fault tenancy termination prior to March 2020, will see the clock tick again on a notice period that was paused at the start of the pandemic.
  • Tenants who occupy rent-stabilized units, single-family homes, or condominiums, and who may yet be terminated for no-fault under one of the five allowed no-fault reasons — redevelopment, remodeling, condominium conversion, landlord use of the unit or withdrawal of the property from the rental market (Ellis) — could see termination notice at any time after the moratorium expires.
  • All rent-stabilized tenants, and only rent-stabilized tenants, who have benefitted from the moratorium on rent increases can certainly expect their landlord to send a notice of rent increase shortly after the moratorium expires. The maximum allowable annual rent increase is now 3.9% and it could take effect as as December if City Council expires the moratorium this month and the landlord acts expeditiously.

Of those effects the most far reaching is the recommendation by the Rent Stabilization Commission to end to the moratorium on rent increases. Not only because the rent could rise; but because it could rise again, within the same year, by 3.9% or whatever percentage is allowed at the time.

We saw a preview of what happens when the state legislature let the state moratorium on eviction for nonpayment expire. There was great uncertainty among affected tenants and a scramble by localities to make tenants aware of any local protection that could save them.

How to Reach Out

Have your say at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 26 after 7 pm. You can call-in with a comment or email the city clerk with a comment to be read aloud during the meeting:

City Council at (310) 288–2288 as the item is being heard. Just follow the prompt and tell the receptionist that you want to comment on item F1: Recommendations for Modifications to the Eviction and Rent Increase Moratoriums.

Reach City Council by email at cityclerk@beverlyhills.org and note that your comment pertains to modification of the eviction and rent Increase moratorium. Put this in the subject line: Item F1 comment: Recommendation for Modifications to the Eviction and Rent Increase Moratoriums.

Feel free to offer YOUR perspective as a resident in rental housing about why this is NOT time to strip tenants of protections while the city continues to support local businesses with pandemic-related measures like expanded outdoor dining and reduced or relaxed business fees and taxes. Read the staff report online for more information.

Again, City Council meets Tuesday, October 26 at 7 pm City Council. Find the agenda posted online. You can stream the council meeting live online or cable Channel 10.

Resources

Beverly Hills City Council

Beverly Hills Rent Stabilization Commission

RSO commission resolution

Urgency ordinance 20-O-2818 effective 2020-9-2 (the moratorium provisions)

Sections 4–6–6 of Chapter 6 and 4–5–501 of Chapter 5 of the rent stabilization ordinance which enumerate the reasons for which a tenancy may be lawfully terminated by the landlord in Beverly Hills. (Most tenants fall under Chapter 6.)