Landlords sue Santa Clarita and others over eviction bans

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26. Watson/The Signal
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Several landlords have filed a lawsuit against the state, Los Angeles County and multiple Southern California cities, including Santa Clarita, seeking reimbursement for unpaid rent due to COVID-19 eviction-protection ordinances. 

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges the series of ordinances, which have created bans on evictions, have “singled out” the apartment owners and lessors to shoulder financial burdens that “should be borne by the public and society at large,” according to the lawsuit.

“While purportedly intending to provide relief to tenants, from the perspective of the lessors and property owners, the ordinances and other enactments are illegal, imbalanced, and significantly (and needlessly) infringe on their constitutional rights,” read the lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Casa Green Inc., Beverly Hills Apartments LLC, Hollywood Lofts LLC, Streamline Properties LLC, Terraces at the Grove Inc. and Westside Habitats LLC, which owns six apartment buildings in Newhall, according to its website. 

The landlords allege that the eviction bans have placed an imbalance on them when governments have not ordered their lawyers, judicial officers, gas stations or grocery stores, for example, to give patrons “credit” upon showing economic hardships caused by the pandemic. 

No “mortgage moratorium” has been established either, the plaintiffs allege, adding that it has resulted in “many (having) had to move money from other investments to service the mortgages,” reads the lawsuit. 

Plaintiffs seek damages “far in excess of $300,000” and relief to enjoin the governments’ enforcement of the ordinances, according to the lawsuit. 

Due to it being pending litigation, city officials cannot comment on the matter, according to City Communications Manager Carrie Lujan. 

L.A. County officials have also declined to comment but have provided the following prepared statement: “Los Angeles County is committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents through an unprecedented public health and economic crisis.” 

The lawsuit comes as the county Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday $5.5 million to prevent foreclosures and link homeowners struck by the pandemic with mortgage assistance, following $100 million toward rent relief. 

In Santa Clarita, the residential and commercial eviction moratorium that had been renewed month after month since March 31 was allowed to expire at the end of August and have renters fall under the county’s ordinance, which expires Sept. 30 and may be extended thereafter on a month-to-month basis. 

Council members voted 3-2 against extending the city’s ban, with council members Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar and Bill Miranda casting “no” votes, ultimately allowing the moratorium ordinance to expire Aug. 31. 

Mayor Cameron Smyth said during the Aug. 25 City Council meeting he supported the extension, as some state and county developments are expected to occur next month. 

“I would certainly support extending this through one more time and then let some of the actions from the state and then the county and others to provide us a little more clarity,” he said. 

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