In its simplest form, Barrientos v. 1801-1825 Morton LLC is a housing law dispute between a landlord and numerous tenants. Morton LLC is the landlord of an apartment complex subject to the Los Angeles Rental Stabilization Ordinance (LARSO). The tenants live in Morton LLC’s units and receive Section 8 assistance from the federal government. The dispute arose when Morton LLC served eviction notices to the Section 8 tenants, citing a “business or economic” reason for the eviction as allowed by a federal regulation. The tenants filed suit, arguing that the eviction notice violated LARSO’s eviction protections. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that the local rental ordinance’s eviction protections were not preempted by the federal regulation, therefore making the no-fault, “business or economic” reason an impermissible way to evict the Section 8 tenants from their units.
In the Background section, this Case Note will begin by providing foundation and context for understanding the conflict in Barrientos. First, this Note will emphasize three specific parts of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program: the program’s purpose, contract structure, and subsidy payment system. Next, this Note will outline the facts, procedural history, and relevant case law before explaining the Ninth Circuit’s analysis and holding. Following the Background section, this Case Note will analyze the Barrientos decision by examining the FMR arguments raised in the parties’ appellate briefs. To supplement this discussion, this Note will use San Francisco, California as an example to illustrate the discrepancy between FMR estimates and actual market rent.
Finally, this Note will discuss the implications of undervalued FMRs for landlords and tenants in the current market, and will suggest a possible solution to ensure the Section 8 HCV program remains effective for low-income renters.
Barrientos v. 1801-1825 Morton LLC: Striving for Balance – The Impact of Fair Market Rent on Low-Income Renters and Landlords in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, 46 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 31