California Renters Owe Landlords $1.8 Billion in Debt

California Renters Owe Landlords $1.8 Billion in Debt

A sign is posted in front of an apartment building with available rentals in San Francisco on June 9, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock


Updated: 12/30/2023

California landlords are owed at least $1.8 billion in unpaid rental debt, ranking the state number two in the nation for total rental debt as COVID-19 era eviction moratoriums have ended, with evictions on the rise in some areas.
Los Angeles landlords alone are owed an estimated $860 million, according to a recent analysis by Oakland based Policy Link, a research organization, and the USC Equity Research Institute—which focuses on advancing racial and economic equity nationwide.
According to the research, as of late September about 11 percent of California rental households were behind on rent. The national average, the researchers said, was 15 percent.
Since researchers began recording such data in August 2020, California renters have remained below the national average, except for in Los Angeles, currently at 14 percent, although it peaked at 15.5 percent in May.
In New York, which has the most rental debt in the nation estimated at $1.9 billion, 19 percent of households were behind on rent in September, with the state consistently above the national average for the past three years.
The data, according to researchers, is collected from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census Household Pulse Survey, which was designed to analyze how people’s lives have been affected by the pandemic. The numbers reflect figures for those who are currently in arrears, calculated every four weeks over a two week period, averaging 2.3 months behind, according to the researcher’s methodology.
According to the data, Florida renters owe around $600 million; Arizonans, $100 million; and Nevada renters, around $46 million. After New York and California, New Jersey ranked third at $747 million, while North Dakota and Vermont were among the bottom with renters owing $9 million and $6 million, respectively.
But according to Chris Moore, a landlord with 20 rental units, former CPA, and board member of the East Bay Rental Housing Association—a nonprofit that represents 1,600 rental property owners providing about 40,000 rental homes in Alameda and Contra Costa counties—there is nearly $1 billion in unpaid back rent alone in Alameda County, in the Bay Area in Northern California, since the eviction moratoriums began.
Mr. Moore, who analyzes renter protection policies for the housing association and led efforts to end the eviction moratoriums in the Alameda County and the cities of Oakland and San Leandro, said his estimates come from the number of renters behind on rent—which he estimated to be near 29,000 with an average monthly rent of $1,100—accumulated during the 3 1/2 year eviction moratorium in Alameda County.
He said in an interview earlier this month that the moratorium hurt the state’s most vulnerable landlords the most.
“Most tenants do try to make a payment plan and work with us ... the ones [that don’t] are really hurting the mom-and-pop housing providers that only have maybe a couple of units, and they don’t have the capital to survive,” he said.
As a result, evictions have risen in some areas, according to filings with the Alameda County Superior Court. In 2019, there were an average of 310 eviction filings per month, which fell to just 55 during the pandemic, but which have since risen, after the moratorium was lifted earlier this year, to now around 580 per month.
According to Mr. Moore, who is also a board member of the East Bay Rental Housing Association—a nonprofit that represents 1,600 rental property owners providing about 40,000 rental homes in Alameda and Contra Costa counties—the recent rise in evictions is the consequence of restricting them during the pandemic.
“So why is it happening? Basically, the government said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to pay your rent for the last three and a half years,’ which, by the way, our industry is the only one they did that to,” Mr. Moore told The Epoch Times.
Rental relief was offered to most California cities in areas affected the most, such as Los Angeles and Alameda counties, but demand outstripped the funding and landlords were left on the hook for unpaid rents.
Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions amid the pandemic in Los Angeles on Aug. 21, 2020. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions amid the pandemic in Los Angeles on Aug. 21, 2020. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the rent relief offered by the city and county won’t make up for the losses landlords incurred during the pandemic.
“When you look at what the city’s providing the landlords and what they’re providing in rent subsidies to renters and compare it to the over $1 billion of COVID rental debt that’s still owed ... all this pales in comparison. It’s really a drop in the bucket compared to the losses that property owners have suffered these past three plus years,” Mr. Yukelson told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently called for an audit of the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, after a rental relief program it manages for small “mom and pop” landlords had yet to begin, despite receiving the go ahead by supervisors in January.
The $45 million program was approved to reimburse small property owners with funds for those owed back rent during the pandemic.
But with neither applications nor program guidelines yet available, Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who authored the motion for the program, and co-author Holly Mitchell, directed the county’s chief executive officer Oct. 30 to audit the department to find out reasons for the delay.
The program would provide up to $30,000 per housing unit to landlords who must agree to not evict tenants when reimbursed for the missed rental payments.
In the city of Los Angeles, a similar program was open for a one-week window at the end of October where those with 12 or fewer rental units could qualify to receive up to 6 months of tenants’ unpaid rent through taxpayer funds.
Mr. Yukelson said the solutions fall short in making up for what landlords have lost because of the regulations.
According to estimates by the apartment association, landlords have also lost about $3 billion in rent increases in Los Angeles County due to COVID-era policies, he said.
Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock


Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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