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L.A. County extends COVID-19 eviction moratorium through September

Fearing a “potential tsunami” of evictions, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor voted Tuesday to extend an eviction moratorium through the end of September.

The moratorium bars landlords in the county from evicting tenants who cannot pay their rent because of financial burdens related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce an agreement later this week with legislative leaders for an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium, which expires June 30.

But Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who authored Tuesday’s motion, said the county could not wait for the state to act.

The extension is “actually the beginning of a thoughtful phase-out,” Kuehl said.

Over the next three months, the county must collaborate with state officials to help L.A. County residents apply for the state’s rental assistance program, she said.

Only a fraction of tenants and property owners who might be eligible have received the assistance, due in part to a lack of outreach by the state, overly complicated applications and a failure to translate the applications into languages other than English, Kuehl said.

Many landlords also didn’t realize they could get rent relief directly.

“I know that the state is now contemplating some changes, but they’re not going to put them in tomorrow, or today,” she said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who coauthored the motion, said tenants in her district, including in Boyle Heights, have been harassed by their landlords demanding rent.

Without protections, a “potential tsunami” of evictions could follow, she said.

“I am dead serious about the fact that there are many people that are really pleading with us to do something today,” she said. “We can’t afford to wait.”

The board’s motion extends protections to commercial evictions in addition to residential. It prohibits no-fault evictions and evictions for unauthorized occupants and pets, as well as for nuisances and for tenants “who reasonably deny entry to their landlords during the public health crisis,” Kuehl’s office said.

Several tenants wrote to the board pleading for an extension of the moratorium, whether because of pandemic-related loss of income or because of the county’s steep rents.

“My landlord wants to sell our rental to capitalize on the massive amount of developer capital being dangled in front of property owners,” resident Tiffany Wright wrote. “I have never missed a rent payment, including during the pandemic, but there are almost no affordable rentals for me to move into. If my landlord is allowed to remove my rental from the market, I will have a very difficult time finding new housing.”

The board also heard from desperate landlords.

Ashlee Lewinstein, 33, who runs a “small mom and pop” real estate operation with her husband, said rent is their only source of income. At this point, they’re out almost $1 million in rental payments they haven’t received since the pandemic started.

“This has to end,” Lewinstein said in her comments to the board. “As a landlord myself, my children get food on the table by being able to collect rent. Not only have I not been able to collect rent, but my payments on the property leave me upside down.”

The measure passed by the board carves out an exception for single-family homes.

L.A. County landlords will be allowed to evict tenants from single-family homes if they or a family member need to live there.

The landlord can only evict tenants who were financially unaffected by COVID-19, and the home must have been purchased before June 30.

A tenant 62 or older can only be evicted if the person moving into the home is also in that age group. The same is true for any tenants who have disabilities, are terminally ill or low-income — the person moving in must be similarly situated.

As part of the motion passed Tuesday, county attorneys will prepare a report on whether the board can mandate that landlords apply for rental assistance before taking action against a tenant.

The report will also address the legality of potential requirements that tenants document a financial impact from COVID-19 and make a good faith effort to apply for rental relief.

Kuehl cautioned her colleagues on the board about ending COVID-19 tenant protections too soon, considering the obstacles to getting state rental assistance to those who need it.

“Tens of thousands of county residents have barely held on during the crisis, so in our eagerness to reopen — and I’m with everybody on that — we really have to be careful not to open the door to mass evictions,” Kuehl said.

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.



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