County Moratorium Continues No-Fault Eviction Protection (Except for Landlord Use)

Beverly Hills rent-stabilized households lost an important eviction protection when the moratorium expired: starting June 1st a tenancy could be terminated for redevelopment, remodeling, condo conversion, or any reason enumerated in the Beverly Hills rent stabilization ordinance. Households that rent a single-family home or condominium in Beverly Hills have it worse: they can be evicted for any reason or no reason at all with only 60 days notice because these households generally have no protection under local or state law. However through December the Los Angeles County moratorium does put no-fault evictions on hold although with one caveat: landlords can still move-in a relative. Let’s take a closer look at the county moratorium protection.

Call it the best-kept secret of the pandemic: In 2020 Los Angeles County supervisors enacted a county moratorium that protected tenants from eviction and harassment and which also included some protections for tenants who kept a pet or took in an ‘unauthorized occupant.’ The county moratorium acted as something like a safety net for tenants during the pandemic because they provided protection over-and-above what City of Beverly Hills provided. Yet our Rent Stabilization Office didn’t tell us about those protections.

That county moratorium was recently extended through December 31, 2022 (although without the protection from eviction for nonpayment except for low-income households). In this post we are going to look at another protection provided by the county moratorium: the prohibition on no-fault evictions that especially benefits households that rent a single-family home or condominium.

County to the Rescue

Households that rent a single-family home or condominium in Beverly Hills ordinarily have no protection from eviction: only 60 days notice is required to evict and no reason is necessary when the tenancy is month-to-month. That’s because single-family homes and condominiums are categorically exempted from Beverly Hills rent stabilization. (Only corporate-owned dwellings are somewhat regulated under the state’s Tenant Protection Act.)

Los Angeles County supervisors have come to the rescue: through December the county moratorium protects these households from eviction without cause.* That should be some comfort to renting households who would otherwise not be protected. However there is a loophole: the landlord is still entitled to the use of up to two units at a rental property in order to house family members. This loophole comes with a process — and some restrictions.

The landlord of a single-family or condominium tenant in Beverly Hills that wishes to evict for landlord use must follow these steps:

  1. The landlord serves the tenant via certified mail with a notice of no-fault termination at least 60 days in advance;
  2. The landlord completes the application (included in the landlord move-in packet) and provides that application, along with proof of service of the notice to the tenant, to the county RSO office;
  3. The landlord provides the tenant with the county-specified relocation fee either as a direct payment or funds from escrow at the time the unit is vacated.
  4. The landlord’s relative must reside in the displaced tenant’’s unit for a minimum of 36 consecutive months and that can be verified by the county.

This process for terminating a tenancy for landlord use is defined in the county resolution that extended the moratorium and is described more fully in the county’s moratorium guidelines (starting with section 6.3 on page 10). The important thing to remember is that there is a process to be followed! The landlord can’t simply demand that the current household vacate simply because a ‘relative’ needs the apartment.

Moreover the county imposes additional restrictions beyond the 36-month residency requirement:

  • The landlord must be is actual PERSON with a minimum 50% interest in the property;
  • The landlord may recover no more than TWO UNITS at the property;
  • Required notice is 60 DAYS and must be served by certified mail with proof of service provided to the county rent stabilization office;
  • The landlord must first PRIORITIZE VACANT UNIT(S) for family occupancy if there are three or more units on the property or else must prioritize for displacement the most recently occupied unit(s) (i.e., last-in, first out);
  • ELIGIBLE FAMILY is limited to the landlord’s (or the landlord’s spouse or registered domestic partner’s) parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, aunt or uncle if at least sixty-two years of age, and any dependent over which the landlord or partner has guardianship;
  • Eligible family members may only displace tenants if they are SIMILARLY SITUATED, such as a senior tenant displaced by a senior family member or a disabled tenant displaced by a family member who is likewise disabled — and the same goes for low-income households and those home to a terminally-ill tenant;
  • The landlord must pay displaced tenants RELOCATION ASSISTANCE in the amount as provided by the county relocation fee schedule.

county relocation assistance tableHow Do the Protections Measure Up?

If we compare the county moratorium’s landlord-use provision with the Beverly Hills rent stabilization ordinance’s landlord-use provision (subsection 4–6–6(H)) we see in some areas the county moratorium is less restrictive than the comparable Beverly Hills rent stabilization provision for landlord use.

The city requires 90 days notice (versus 60 days for the county) and the landlord can only recover one unit per parcel (versus two units per the county’s provision). Beverly Hills is also more restrictive on eligible family members: only a spouse, children or parents can qualify versus the county’s broader eligibility which includes aunts, uncles and dependents in a guardianship.

On the other hand, the county moratorium has a “similarly-situated” requirement that would benefit our ordinance’s landlord-use provision. This criterion imposes a restriction upon displacement of protected tenants like seniors, disabled residents, low-income households and terminally-ill occupants.

Lastly, the county defines ‘senior’ as 62 years of age whereas Beverly Hills is slightly less-restrictive in defining a senior as 65 years of age or older. One has to be three years older to qualify as a senior under the city’s landlord-use provision.

Neither the city nor the county identifies as a protected tenant class a household with minor children (much less children in our schools).

What’s the Practical Effect of the County Moratorium?

Again, the county moratorium’s restriction on landlord use is of particular value to households that rent a single-family home or condominium in Beverly Hills. That’s because most of these households would otherwise have no protection from eviction for landlord use: only 60 days notice is required and there is no relocation assistance.

Under the county moratorium, by contrast, eligibility for landlord-use is restricted and relocation assistance is required. This protection is in place through December of 2022.

The practical effect of the county moratorium restriction on landlord use is that it makes that loophole less attractive to use to evict tenants. So it should buy some time for households that could have otherwise been summarily evicted. Those households will probably not see a termination notice until January at the earliest.

One additional restriction enacted by the county supervisors is related to COVID: if an occupant of a household to be displaced is diagnosed with a “suspected or confirmed case of COVID–19” within fourteen days of the final date of the tenancy, the moratorium stops the clock. They won’t have to vacate until they are no longer infectious. That may mean only 2–3 weeks but it is an important protection for those who need it.

Our Take

We can’t applaud county supervisors for stripping from the county moratorium the total prohibition on termination for landlord use but we can appreciate that the revised and extended moratorium enacts some restrictions on the practice. Some protection is better than no protection!

Today households that rent a single-family home or a condominium can be summarily evicted with 60 days notice and no relocation fee only because our rent stabilization ordinance categorically excludes them. Instead we want to see no-fault evictions limited and regulated for all renting households in Beverly Hills. And of course we want any household displaced for landlord use — or any other lawful no-fault reason — to walk away with relocation assistance.

Moreover the substance of the county moratorium landlord-use loophole suggests some model language to improve our own ordinance section 4–6–6(H) concerning landlord use. For example we like the idea of allowing displacement for only “similarly-situated” family members; if we had that provision then only a senior relative of the landlord could displace a household with a senior occupant. We wouldn’t then see a family that includes an occupant with a substantial life impairment (the language in the state disability statute) evicted so that the child or grandchild of the landlord can take the apartment.

It is a shame that it took a pandemic to bring these protections to tenants. Now that the county stepped up with protections greater than Beverly Hills renting households ordinarily enjoy, we should take this opportunity to revisit the protections that tenants have today and think about expanding them.

Additional Reading

In this post we have discussed protection from no-fault eviction where the tenant is not at fault. However eviction is always on the table when the tenant has breached the lease or failed to correct an alleged breach. The 3-day notice to correct or quit is the landlord’s first step followed by a court summons. This applies in any alleged at-fault instance such as the creating a nuisance (or permitting a nuisance to continue) or laying waste to the premises or property. Also a tenancy can be terminated for cause if the tenant refuses to sign a lease renewal on similar terms. Of course failing to pay rent is always ground for eviction except where the county moratorium extends that protection. Currently only low-income households are protected but only if they have provided the landlord with the proper declaration.