Several dozen advocates of “mom-and-pop” property owners demonstrated Aug. 15 in downtown Los Angeles calling for an end to the state of California’s eviction moratorium.

The rally, which unfolded outside of the County Assessor’s Office at 500 W. Temple St., was organized by Yong Ling Lee, who, according to local reports, owns 10 single-family houses, including in Redondo Beach and Hawthorne. Lee spread word of a “Bi-Coastal Housing Provider” protest on social media.

The first-ever demonstration was the flipside of recent rallies held by Los Angeles Tenants Union and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which have called for rent payment strikes.

“The protest on Saturday (is) truly a grassroots effort being made by members of our association and many non-members,” Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Daniel Yukelson told the Business Journal in an email.

Yukelson’s organization was not a co-sponsor. However, when Yukelson learned about the demonstration via email, he forwarded the information to his landlord advocacy group’s membership.

Many landlords have been upset by what they see as an overwhelming lack of mortgage relief from the various levels of government, further hampered by their legal inability to evict tenants or demand rents due to a tenant-protecting moratorium on evictions that unfolded in California soon after the pandemic began. Often, tenants of multifamily have not had to show proof of financial hardships until they are dragged to court … in a court system turned sluggish by the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, the mortgage payments of landlords continue to grow, with banks and other lenders not cutting slack for mortgage deadlines to the owners of multifamily units — many of them independent owners using their properties as nest eggs or retirement funds.

Rent-free months

“These eviction moratoria, which have been in place since March, have allowed many renters to live without making rent payments and live rent-free now for five to six months, and in some cases longer than that, whether they have received unemployment income, have continued working, have substantial savings or otherwise,” Yukelson said. “While some renters have suffered terribly with job loss and infection with COVID-19, so have rental property owners. Owning property does not make one immune to job loss or becoming sick with the coronavirus.”

The timing for this first demonstration of landlords seems appropriate, Yukelson explained.

“No one is stepping up to pay mortgages, property taxes, insurance and many of the other obligations we rental property owners must pay. The entire housing burden has been placed squarely on the backs of rental property owners, and more and more are now facing foreclosure and will eventually lose their properties. These ill-conceived policies will ultimately cause the destruction of the ‘mom and pop’ housing provider and the loss of badly needed affordable housing in California.”

In addition to a dearth of mortgage forbearance, landlords have been concerned about rental income with the expiration of $600-a-week supplemental federal unemployment benefits, which may greatly impact their tenants’ ability to pay rent.

Yukelson’s organization will wait for the disposition of the statewide eviction moratorium and for decisions on similar cases.

“We are likely going to seek an injunction,” he said.

Yukelson took sharp aim at the state’s allowances favoring tenants and rendering them immune from fiscal responsibility during the crisis period.

“People do not invest and risk their retirements in rental property to provide private welfare – that’s the government’s job,” said Yukelson.

Meanwhile, the Apartment Association must contend with bureaucratic real time in the age of COVID-19.

“Going to court in California is like visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles without an appointment,”’ he said. “Things are moving along slowly.”

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