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Study: Lifting eviction moratoriums leads to higher COVID-19 case rates, deaths

“The researchers noted that not everyone who contracted the virus as a result of lifted moratoriums had necessarily been evicted. Rather, some of the additional cases and deaths were caused by what Madeline Howard, senior housing attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, called a “ripple effect” of people moving in with friends and family, couch surfing, or crowding homeless encampments. “It’s not only about people affected by the evictions, it hurts the whole community,” said Howard.”

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Victory for COVID Tenant Protections in Los Angeles

Last Friday, Judge Dean Pregerson denied the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles’ motion for preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the City of Los Angeles’ COVID-related tenant protections.

The Apartment Association filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge, on constitutional grounds, the city’s ability to enact COVID-related tenant protections: one barring evictions for nonpayment of rent or certain lease violations for COVID-related reasons during the local emergency period, which is ongoing, and one barring rent increases for rent control units during the local emergency period. Western Center, along with Public Counsel, The Public Interest Law Project, and Susman Godfrey LLP, represent two tenants’ rights organizations, ACCE Action and Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), who successfully sought to intervene in the lawsuit to help defend the ordinances. Since the lawsuit was filed, California enacted AB 3088, which overlaps significantly with the eviction protection ordinance. While AB 3088 goes further to protect tenants in some ways, the city’s ordinance goes further in others.

In September, the Apartment Association filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking the court to suspend the enforcement of the two ordinances while the lawsuit is pending. It argued that the Association was likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that landlords would suffer irreparable harm if the ordinances stayed in place. The Association relied on its claim that the ordinances violate the US Constitution’s Contract Clause, which forbids the state (or local governments) from making laws that substantially impair contracts without a reasonable basis for making those laws, and a claim that the ordinances violated landlords’ due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court denied the Association’s motion, stating that “even though the court is persuaded that [the Apartment Association] will be able to show that the Moratorium substantially impairs landlords’ contract rights, [the Apartment Association] is not likely to succeed on its Contract Clause claim because any such impairment appears, at this stage, to be eminently reasonable under the extraordinary circumstances.” The court also disposed of the Association’s Due Process claim in a footnote: “Substantive due process provides no basis for overturning validly enacted state statutes unless they are clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.”

The court, noting that the Apartment Association had basically conceded that the state law is constitutional, further stated, “[The Apartment Association] has failed to show that the preliminary injunction it seeks will prevent the harms it alleges. The Moratorium represents but one layer of protection Los Angeles renters currently enjoy. California state authorities have not remained idle in the face of the COVID crisis. In late August, the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 3088, the COVID-19 Tenant Rights Act.”

While the court upheld the City of LA’s ordinance, and found that landlord interests must yield to the “vital interests of the public as a whole,” in his ruling, Judge Pregerson urged the federal government to act in order to avoid the burgeoning “war” between landlords and tenants, brought on by the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic:

This Court will defer to the judgment of local authorities, who have the unenviable task of weighing all of the relevant considerations and choosing the least of all possible evils. It bears repeating, however, that the COVID-19 crisis is national in scope, and demands a national response.

Landlords and tenants alike are victims of the virus, both literally and economically. Tenants should not have to live in fear of eviction because of a calamity that was not of their making. Landlords should not have to live in fear of losing their hard-earned investments in our community because of a calamity that was not of their making. Our citizens should not have to fight each other to avoid economic and personal ruin.

Courts are an imperfect tool to resolve such conflicts. So too are ordinances and statutes that shift economic burdens from one group to another. The court respectfully implores our lawmakers to treat this calamity with the attention it deserves. It is, but for the shooting, a war in every real sense. Hundreds of thousands of tenants pitted against tens of thousands of landlords – that is the tragedy that brings us here. It is the court’s reverent hope, expressed with great respect for the magnitude of the task at hand, that our leaders, and not the courts, lead us to a speedy and fair solution.

This is an important win in the fight to keep not only Los Angeles renters housed, but also renters throughout California, as it affirms the importance of people staying in their homes in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, and what looks like another wave of shutdowns. We join Judge Pregerson in the hope that we will see more substantial solutions from the federal government in the coming weeks and months.

For more about the case, ACCE and SAJE’s joint press release can be read here.

PRESS RELEASE: Tenants seek to join federal lawsuit to defend city of los Angeles’s Covid-19 tenant protections

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles residents fighting to prevent mass displacement and homelessness in the middle of a pandemic

LOS ANGELES – Tenants’ rights organizations the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE Action) and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) seek to join a federal lawsuit to defend the City of Los Angeles’s COVID-19 emergency eviction protections and rent freeze. Public Counsel, the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP), and the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) filed a motion to intervene yesterday in the federal lawsuit Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) v. City of Los Angeles on behalf of tenant members of ACCE and SAJE. AAGLA’s lawsuit is seeking to void the City’s validly enacted eviction protection and rent freeze ordinances, thereby allowing its members to engage in mass evictions in the midst of a global pandemic — a catastrophe for Los Angeles tenants and the region’s health.

Los Angeles sits at the juncture of three unfolding crises — a global public health pandemic, an ever-increasing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, and a movement for Black Lives that seeks justice for those who are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of the first two crises. “You can’t be safe at home if you don’t have a home. It is unconscionable and immoral for AAGLA to be seeking the right to evict poor families of color in the middle of a global pandemic where eviction can have deadly consequences,” said Faizah Malik, Staff Attorney with the Community Development Project at Public Counsel.

The City of Los Angeles enacted an ordinance in late March to provide tenants with an affirmative defense to certain unlawful detainer actions. The ordinance, among other things, prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to COVID-19, such as loss of income or healthcare expenses; provides tenants with a 12-month repayment period to pay back rent; and prohibits landlords from evicting tenants based on the presence of unauthorized occupants or pets or for nuisance related to COVID-19.

The City also enacted an ordinance in early May to freeze rent increases for one year for all units protected by the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. AAGLA is seeking to reverse these reasonable and necessary measures to keep people stably housed. “It is crucial for the Court to hear from tenants in this case because they are the ones who are facing eviction, homelessness, and potentially catastrophic health consequences if the Court voids the ordinances,” said Kathryn Eidmann, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney with the Opportunity Under Law Project at Public Counsel.

ACCE and SAJE, as part of the Healthy LA Coalition, fought for the passage of these ordinances. ACCE and SAJE are tenants’ rights membership organizations comprised of low-income and very low-income Black and Brown people in Los Angeles. The majority of their members are severely rent burdened and are one crisis away from homelessness. A majority have lost income during the pandemic and are struggling to pay rent; those that kept their jobs are frontline workers who are risking contracting COVID-19 every day because they have no other choice.

Despite the challenges they are facing, many members are trying to pay rent, at the expense of other necessities like food. At the same time, landlords are seeking and obtaining massive federal subsidies and mortgage relief, but AAGLA still wants the unbridled power to engage in mass evictions. “Rent was due again this week, and for the fourth consecutive month thousands of Angelenos won’t be able to pay it. Without the current protections, many of our members would be displaced, exponentially increasing the already fast-moving gentrification process in the neighborhoods where we organize,” said Joe Delgado, Los Angeles Director of ACCE Action.

Since the ordinances were adopted, tenants have faced increased harassment by landlords employing tactics such as sending excessive notices, forcing tenants to sign repayment agreements, and neglecting essential repairs. Even with these extreme conditions, what tenants fear the most is losing their homes and being forced to live on the street at a time when having a home has never been more important.

“I owe $975 in rent for the month of May. Even though I am working now, it will take me three months to save enough money in order to keep paying the rent month-to-month. I do not want to leave this apartment. I have lived here for 11 years. If the owner evicts me, I will not have anywhere to go. I would be on the street,” said David D*, a tenant and member of SAJE.

“This is an issue of statewide and national concern. Across California and the country, tenants are staring down an impending wave of evictions. We must do everything we can to safeguard the local protections necessary to give tenants a chance at recovering from the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath,” said Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney at Western Center.

“The emergency ordinances were reasonable and necessary actions to prevent further devastation. The City was correct to take action to protect tenants and within its powers,” said Michael Rawson, Director of PILP.

*Tenant’s real name protected.

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312, rradhakrishnan[at]


Public Counsel is the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. Founded in 1970, Public Counsel strives to achieve three main goals: protect the legal rights of disadvantaged children; represent immigrants who have been the victims of torture, persecution, domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes; and foster economic justice by providing individuals and institutions in underserved communities with access to quality legal representation. Through a pro bono model that leverages the talents and dedication of thousands of attorney and law student volunteers, along with an in-house staff of more than 75 attorneys and social workers, Public Counsel annually assists more than 30,000 families, children, immigrants, veterans, and nonprofit organizations and addresses systemic poverty and civil rights issues through impact litigation and policy advocacy. For more information, visit

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center.

The Public Interest Law Project (PILP) provides crucial litigation, advocacy and training support to local legal services and public interest law programs throughout California serving lower income communities and communities of color. Our work brings affordable housing to lower income families and homeless people, provides access to services and public benefits for lower income persons and persons with disabilities, and protects neglected and abused children and persons displaced by major disasters and government action.

SUMMARY: California Courts issue Emergency Rule on Evictions and Foreclosures

At its meeting on April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council adopted an emergency court rule that effectively stops all evictions, other than those necessary to protect public health and safety, for the duration of  the COVID‐19 emergency. The rule is applicable to all courts and to all eviction cases, whether they are  based on a tenant’s missed rent payment or another reason. This new court rule will apply until 90 day after the Governor lifts the state of emergency related to the COVID‐19 pandemic, or until it is amended  or repealed by the Judicial Council. The rule:

  • Prohibits a court from issuing a summons after a landlord files an eviction case, unless necessary to protect public health and safety. This means that, even if a landlord files an eviction case,  most tenants will not need to respond until the emergency rule expires, ensuring that tenants  do not lose their right to tell their side of the story in court due to the emergency.
    • The time for a tenant to respond to a new eviction case does not begin until the tenant  is served with a court‐issued summons, and in nearly all unlawful detainers cases, no  summons will be issued during this emergency period.
    • If a court finds on the record that an eviction action is necessary to protect public health  and safety, the court will issue a summons even during this emergency period. Only in  these rare cases will a tenant be required to respond in court after being served with  the summons and complaint.
  • Prohibits a court from entering a default judgment against the tenant because the tenant failed to file a response, unless the court finds on the record:
    • The eviction is necessary to protect public health and safety; and
    • The tenant failed to respond in the time required by law, including any extension that  may apply due to the Governor’s Executive Order regarding evictions during the COVID19 emergency.
  • For eviction cases where the tenant has responded or appeared, prohibits a court from setting the case for trial earlier than 60 days after a trial is requested, unless necessary to protect public  health and safety.
  • Requires any trial in an eviction case that was already scheduled as of April to be postponed  until at least 60 days after the initial trial date.

In addition, the Judicial Council adopted an emergency rule related to judicial foreclosures. This rule also applies until 90 days after the Governor lifts the COVID‐19 state of emergency. The rule:

  • Prohibits a court from taking any action or issuing any decisions or judgments unless  necessary for public health and safety.
  • Postpones any legal deadlines for filing judicial foreclosure cases.
  • Extends the period for exercising any rights in a judicial foreclosure case, including any right  of redemption from a foreclosure sale, or petitioning the court in relation to such a right.

Note that this rule does not impact non‐judicial foreclosures, which comprise the vast majority of  foreclosures in California. Non‐judicial foreclosure sales are conducted by private parties outside the  courthouse and are not affected by these new emergency rules.

While these emergency rules effectively put evictions and judicial foreclosures on hold at least  through the summer, they do not establish any new tenant rights or defenses to an eviction, address  requirements for notifying landlords or providing documentation when tenants are unable to pay  rent due to loss of income or other COVID‐19 related reasons, or address how repayment will be  handled. These are all issues that would be difficult for the courts to take on, or that they don’t have  the authority to address. We expect that the Legislature will address these issues with urgency when  it returns in May.

Coronavirus: California courts halt all lender foreclosures, renter evictions

“We are extremely relieved that the Judicial Council has shown the type of leadership we need to make sure that basic, straightforward protections are in place, reducing any immediate risk to tenants and allowing them to focus on protecting their health and safety without worrying about losing their homes at a time when they are being told to shelter in place to avoid the spread of a highly contagious and deadly virus,” stated Western Center on Law & Poverty, a tenant rights group.”

Coronavirus: California courts halt all lender foreclosures, renter evictions

Western Center’s Housing Bills Become Law, Creating Landmark Renter Protections for Californians

By Madeline Howard, Western Center housing attorney

This week, Governor Newsom signed two historic renter protections into California law, both of which Western Center proudly co-sponsored, both decades in the making.

Assemblymember David Chiu’s AB 1482 is getting most of the attention because it establishes something many housing advocates never thought we would see in California – statewide protection from “no cause” evictions, and anti-rent gouging protections. Without these protections, most California landlords could evict a tenant without stating a reason – even long-term tenants who always paid their rent on time and followed all of the rules. And across the state, we’ve seen Californians indirectly evicted from their homes when rents are raised by 50, even 100 percent. The passage of AB 1482 will halt this unsustainable trajectory to keep more people in their homes.

The second of our bills that was signed into law is Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 329. SB 329 was also an uphill battle, because so many people have unfounded negative perceptions about the federal housing voucher program, and many landlords openly state “No Section 8” in their rental listings.* SB 329 will prevent that from now on. Just as landlords are not permitted to discriminate against rental applicants because of things like race and gender, now California has outlawed discrimination based on a person’s use of housing assistance to pay the rent.

If you are wondering why SB 329 is such a big deal, let me explain. Remember the horrifying photos of a suburban police officer in Texas kneeling on a young black girl’s back as she cried, face down on the grass, in her bathing suit? Someone in the mostly-white neighborhood had called the police on the group of black teenagers for being “rowdy.” Why am I reminding you of yet another ugly incident of police brutality, violent racism, and white supremacy? Because one of those white neighbors reportedly yelled, “Go back to your Section 8 housing!”

SB 329 matters because it addresses this kind of racism head on. While our fair housing laws have long made it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to someone because of their race, California landlords were still free to say “No Section 8.”

In a chilling echo of the blatant discrimination that dominated centuries of American history, many signs and online rental listings openly say “no dogs, no Section 8.” SB 329 is important not just because it will help low income people who rely on housing vouchers actually access housing of their choice (which is hugely important on its own), but also because it addresses an ugly vestige of our deeply racist housing industry.

Our amazing housing policy advocate Sasha Harnden worked tirelessly to get SB 329 into place, because in his time as a legal services attorney in LA, he saw firsthand how clients were repeatedly turned away from housing because of landlords’ “No Section 8” policies. We are hopeful that despite the continuous rollback of civil rights on the federal level, this step forward for California will help thousands of people find and keep stable, safe, affordable housing with their vouchers, and that SB 329 will be a powerful tool for combating housing discrimination. There is so much more work to be done, but with this law we move closer to tackling segregation and racist, exclusionary practices in housing.

Just as California takes huge steps to address discrimination in housing, the Trump administration threatens to undermine decades of Civil Rights protections under the Fair Housing Act by gutting the Disparate Impact rule. To get involved in the fight to stop this civil rights rollback, visit

In California, we are deeply grateful to Senator Holly Mitchell for her incredible leadership on the issue of housing voucher discrimination, and I am immensely proud of my colleagues in Sacramento, Sasha Harnden and Anya Lawler, who worked so hard to make these bills happen. In the midst of the state’s housing crisis, people shouldn’t be turned away from stable housing because they need rental assistance. California is an expensive state to live in, and it’s only getting worse. The relief renters can access through various federal, state, and local housing voucher programs is an important tool in California’s fight to keep people housed and off the street. I am so proud to be a part of the team that made these historic wins happen, and I am excited to see what we can build on from here.


* The federal housing choice voucher program was previously known as “Section 8” and many people still refer to it that way.