California’s state eviction moratorium ended in June, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of eviction. The moratoriums within Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles still give some renters time to hold off on rent payments, but only as long as those protections remain in place.
Renters living within the City of LA unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 are protected from evictions under the Safer at Home Emergency Declaration. The declaration protects those tenants up to 12 months after the declaration is lifted.
The current end date for the declaration is July 22, but the City Council can vote to extend it each month — which they have been doing since it went into effect in March 2020.
For those renters living in an area of LA County that is outside the City of LA, the rules are more complicated and stringent, applying only to tenants whose income is below a certain amount and who have provided notice to their landlords at the beginning of each month.
As part of the County’s COVID-19 Tenant Protections Resolution (formerly the LA County Eviction Moratorium), tenants who are at or below 80 percent of the area median income due to financial hardship from COVID-19 and are unable to pay rent may be protected from eviction.
Qualifying tenants have to provide notice to the landlord within seven days of rent being due each month (a template notice is available on the LA County website). If no notice is given, the landlord can evict the tenant.
“The resolution does not stop or cancel rent from being owed or the accumulation of rent that is owed during the protection period. Residential tenants will have 12 months following the expiration of the resolution to pay rent due on or after April 1.
The resolution went into effect on July 1 and ends on Dec. 31.
For tenants outside of both areas, for whom the LA County resolution is not applicable, they will have to abide by state rules and resume payment of rent.
While the declaration and resolution will keep some tenants in their homes, for now, there is concern that the lack of a concrete solution to help tenants who are unable to make rent payments will lead to an increase in homelessness down the line.
LA County’s Flawed System
Jeff Faller, president of the Apartments Owners Association, noted, “It’s very complicated.”
“There are multiple notices that need to be given,” Faller said. “And so it is like jujitsu. It is very, very complicated to even get the documents right on the owner’s side and on the tenant side … there are some tenants that think they’re protected, and they’re not.”
Faller said the “real tragedy” is that some tenants have the false assumption that they won’t have to pay for the rent that has been steadily accumulating, and they will end up with massive debt — particularly in LA County.
“The real disservice that the LA County Board of Supervisors has done for tenants is not communicating that well, and extending the resolution that extends the moratorium for LA County,” Faller said. “It really is working against tenants because it’s setting them up for financial failure because a lot of them aren’t aware of it. They still will have to pay it back eventually.”
As Faller explained, those tenants would then have to file for bankruptcy, making it much harder to find a place to live in the future. Faller said that this policy is actually promoting homelessness rather than preventing it. He said it is a “kangaroo court” whenever the Board of Supervisors has a meeting and that they are not listening to others.
“They’re ignoring tons of emails, tons of different letters that have been written, that I’ve written, that I’ve encouraged our members [to write],” Faller said. “We’re the largest association here in the Valley and one of the largest in the whole state. We have over 20,000 members, and we’ve had people send stuff to them, and they’re just totally not listening.”
Protections in the resolution apply to more than just rent and also protect tenants from being evicted for lease violations such as unauthorized occupants or for being a nuisance. Faller, however, said these restrictions have caused problems for landlords. He claims that being a nuisance can extend to threatening people and adding more occupants into a unit that can’t accommodate them all and creates a health risk.
Faller did say that people who need help should have the ability to apply for assistance but said it should be the government’s responsibility, not anybody else’s.
“We all understand that COVID was totally deadly, and still is, but there are ways to take care of it,” Faller said. “What we’re doing is not working very well.”
Evictions Will Agitate A Worsening Homeless Crisis
Larry Gross is the executive director for the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), having served in that position since the organization’s founding in 1973. He’s helped to organize tenants and low-income people in the greater LA area to fight for tenants’ rights.
Gross pointed out that without a bailout for tenants unable to pay their rent, it could lead to an economic disaster.
Gross points to LA County having a high poverty rate — latest US Census data reports the poverty level at 13.2 percent — and the high cost of rent is making the problem worse.
Data from Apartments.com found that the average monthly cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the San Fernando Valley is $2,640.
More than 66,400 people were experiencing homelessness in LA County at the start of 2020, according to a count from the LA Homeless Services Authority.
“We’re rolling down the tracks to an economic train wreck for people,” Gross said. “There’s no solution. There is no light at the end of the tunnel in regard to the disaster we’re facing. And the only reason we haven’t seen this tsunami of evictions, which everyone predicted, is because we’ve had these piecemeal things that have pushed it down the road, but eventually we’re going to hit that wall.
“No one is putting forth solutions to this. You know, if you were a bank or if you were an airline or if you were a Wall Street entity, you got bailed. In LA, no one is talking about truly bailing you out and that’s where our priorities are all screwed up.”
Gross also criticized California officials for their inaction and said the homeless crisis can’t be dealt with if more people are being put on the streets.
“Homeless prevention needs to be as high a priority as dealing with people who are homeless, and cutting off this rental assistance program at the state level and allowing this collapse was totally irresponsible from elected officials and Gov. [Gavin Newsom] to allow this to happen,” Gross said.
One of the most significant issues for Gross and CES is making sure tenants know what their rights are since there is not only the county resolution, but the eviction moratorium within the City of LA. The organization holds a weekly online clinic every Saturday to explain to renters their rights.
“The problem here is people, whether they’re in the city, the county, the unincorporated area or other communities, most tenants don’t know what laws apply to them …,” Gross said. “It’s crucial if a tenant gets any type of notice, and they’re unsure, they need to contact us or another tenants’ rights organization and find out what their rights are before they respond to the landlord and start packing.”
Gross said it all comes down to money, and that it needs to come from every level of government, starting from the federal level.
“We don’t want to see small landlords go under, but there needs to be money to [give] everybody homes,” Gross said. “Before COVID, we were facing an incredible affordable housing crisis … and COVID made it so much worse.
“There is no silver bullet. There is no magic wand. We need to see the money being filtered down through the government to tenants to pay the rent.”
For more information about the LA County eviction moratorium and to download the notice to be provided to the landlord, go to https://dcba.lacounty.gov/noevictions/.
To request a link for the Coalition for Economic Survival tenants’ rights clinic, email HelpingLArenters@gmail.com. For information about the organization, go to http://www.cesinaction.org/.
To learn more about the Apartment Owners Association, go to https://aoausa.com/.