The suit from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles argues that the city’s rent freeze rule robs property owners of income and due process.

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The worst days of the coronavirus pandemic may be a distant memory now, but a group of Los Angeles landlords announced this week that they’re continuing a legal battle against their city over the municipality’s COVID-related rent freeze rule.

The battle comes in the form of a new lawsuit from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), which represents property owners, against L.A. city. At issue is a rule L.A. passed in early 2020 that barred landlords from raising rent on units covered by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

According to the Commercial Observer, the rule covered roughly 640,000 units or about 75 percent of L.A.’s rental housing stock.

In a statement, the AAGLA argued that the rule violates both the U.S. and California constitutions “on the grounds that it deprives the Association’s members of due process by effectively denying property owners from implementing” mandated annual rent increases.

L.A. lifted its emergency order in February of this year, which means that the rent freeze will continue until February of next year, the statement goes on to note. In total that will lead to about four years during which landlords of rent-stabilized apartments were not able to increase their prices.

Daniel Yukelson, AAGLA’s executive director, added in the statement that the rent freeze happened at the same time that “rental housing providers have been saddled with cost increases impacting virtually every line item of their profit and loss statement.”

Cheryl Turner, president of AAGLA’s board, also said in the statement that the rent freeze came amid “extreme inflationary pressures,” and has consequently “been a tremendous financial strain on the city’s rental housing providers.”

Cheryl Turner

“As a result, many housing providers in Los Angeles have been forced to exit the rental business, liquidate retirement savings to keep up with rapidly rising costs, or in extreme instances, are facing foreclosure proceedings,” Turner said, adding that no other industry has been subject to a similar freeze on income.

The new suit — which was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California — is just the latest in a string of cases the AAGLA has filed against Los Angeles.

In March, for example, the organization sued to stop a pair of new renter protections. In December, the organization, together with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, sued over the city’s so-called mansion tax on properties that sell for more than $5 million. And in 2020, the AAGLA sued L.A. over eviction and rent increase moratoriums.

The AAGLA also sued Los Angeles County last year over an eviction moratorium.

In the case of the suit filed this week, the AAGLA is ultimately asking a judge to overturn the city’s rent freeze ordinance.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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