LOS ANGELES — As the financial restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, small landlords in Los Angeles — who own a few investment properties — are finding it harder to fill their vacant apartments. 

What You Need To Know

  • New legislation extends renter protections until February 2021

  • It requires renters to begin repaying rent once the moratorium lifts

  • Small landlords struggle as eviction protections continue

  • The new rules are leaving small landlords with few options

“I have actually had five vacancies since March 15, which is when everything shut down. I’ve only filled three out of the five,” said Bettyna, a small landlord in Los Angeles.

Bettyna has been a landlord for over 18 years. During that time, she’s created certain salary and credit score requirements to make sure tenants are able to afford the rent in her building. As the pandemic continues, Bettyna realized she needed to lower the threshold of requirements to help renters move in because the longer her rental properties remain vacant, she’s left with less money to pay the bills.

“I’ve had a real hard time because I still have to pay my utilities, my mortgages, my taxes, my insurance, all the repairs that come up,” Bettyna said.

Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law an extension of renter protections and some assistance for small landlords like Bettyna during the pandemic. The new law protects renters from evictions related to missed payments during the pandemic until Feb 2021; require renters to repay rent once the moratorium lifts; allows small landlords to begin collecting late rent payments in March 2021; provides some loan forbearance options for small landlords who aren’t able to pay property mortgages.

In response to the new legislation, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles in a statement to Spectrum News 1 said:

“The likelihood of collecting on rental debts that are nearly two years old, for most owners, will be impossible. The governor and state legislature [are] merely setting rental property owners up for a complete write-off of past due rent. It is yet another financial burden we small owners are being forced to bear."  

According to Bettyna, the new rules are leaving small landlords with few options. 

“To target the landlord and say you’re going to do this because we don’t trust you to make the right decision, or because you’re not compassionate enough to make the right decision, but everyone else doesn’t have limitations whatsoever. I think that’s really not a fair share,” Bettyna said.

While she’s hoping to keep her units occupied, as a property owner, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll be able to continue weathering the long-term financial effects of this pandemic.