L.A. City Council votes to protect tenants while they await rental assistance

Los Angeles, CA - October 10: A view of Los Angeles City Hall Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The L.A. City Council moved to protect renters waiting to find out if they will receive financial aid. Above, City Hall. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

After a lengthy discussion, the Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to prohibit the eviction of tenants whose rental assistance applications have been approved but who have not yet received their funds.

The move comes days before a deadline for tenants to pay pandemic-era rental arrears. Under the city’s plan to end COVID-19 eviction protections, unpaid rent accumulated from Oct. 1, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2023, is due Thursday.

More than 25,000 applicants are waiting to find out if they are eligible for funds from the United to House L.A. Emergency Renters Assistance Program, which provides up to six months of unpaid rent for qualified and selected renters and property owners.

Read more: L.A. moves to protect renters who got a pet during the pandemic lockdown

Roughly 3,200 applicants were approved for the program, but most have not received their aid. Only 25% of the $30.4 million allocated for emergency assistance has been distributed.

Renters who did not apply for the program or were not approved could face eviction if they do not make their outstanding payments by Thursday. The deadline to apply was in October.

The City Council motion, introduced by Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez and Paul Krekorian, originally aimed to protect every renter who applied to the United to House L.A. program, regardless of their application status.

After pushback from groups representing property owners, the motion was amended to prohibit evictions only for applicants whose applications have been approved. Those individuals will be protected from eviction for 120 days after Feb. 1 while their rental assistance funds are processed.

“Tenants who have already been approved for emergency rental assistance should not be evicted while they’re waiting for their checks,” Krekorian said. “Their landlords are going to get paid, so they shouldn’t be putting tenants out just because the city took a little longer to get them the money.”

Applicants who have not yet been approved but are qualified will receive the same protections once granted approval.

Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, said the motion was unfair to small property owners who rely on rent payments for their livelihood.

Before the amendment was enacted, the motion would have prevented landlords from evicting tenants for an indefinite period of time while they waited for their application to be processed.

“Owners would not be participating in the program if they knew this would be the ramification,” he said. “It’s not as egregious as it would have been without this amendment.”

Fred Sutton, senior vice president of local public affairs for the California Apartment Assn., also said the amendment was key. But he’s still wary of how long it might take for renters and owners to receive their money.

“It's just a matter of those funds getting to the individual,” he said, “but we are very concerned about the procedural bureaucracy that takes so long to get these dollars out the door.”

Sutton also criticized the “rushed” timeline of the City Council motion, which was introduced on Wednesday.

“There was one business day to review a very broad and somewhat complicated motion and on a procedural level, that shouldn't be acceptable,” he said.

Hernandez said it was necessary to get the motion approved prior to the rent payment deadline.

“With the Feb. 1 rent debt deadline looming and thousands of tenants at risk of eviction, it's incumbent on us to do everything we can to stop the eviction-to-homelessness pipeline and keep people in their homes,” she said. “The city can and must do more to keep Angelenos housed.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.