The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend a moratorium on evictions of commercial tenants through the end of January, but residential tenants are expected to lose similar protections under state law this week.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who recommended renewing protections for retail and industrial tenants who have been unable to pay rent, explained that the county can no longer offer the same deal to residential renters.
“Unfortunately, the county no longer has the authority to extend non- payment of rent protection to local residential tenants,” Kuehl said. “Today’s motion extends non-payment of rent protections to commercial tenants, and extends limited protections to residential tenants as permitted by law. I hope that L.A. County residents who fell behind on their rent during the pandemic act quickly to apply for the state’s Housing Is Key rent relief program.”
The state’s eviction moratorium expires Sept. 30 and is not expected to be renewed. However, residential tenants who fell behind in paying rent may be eligible for assistance under the state’s rent relief program. Applications can be submitted at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/ until available funding runs out.
The state has paid out roughly $300 million of an available $541 million under two separate allocations of federal COVID-19 funding, and there are more than 100,000 applications already in the queue, according to county staffers.
The board was able to renew protections against tenant harassment and retaliation under its COVID-19-related order. Those rules are intended to give tenants an affirmative defense against unjust evictions. The board also expanded the conditions that allow landlords to move back into homes they previously rented out, as part of a plan to gradually lift all COVID-related rental market restrictions.
Some landlords told the board that they were being exploited by tenants able to pay rent but failing to do so and refusing to move out. One woman said she was owed more than $35,000 and wanted to sell her house to make ends meet.
“I offered her $25,000 to get out of my home, she refused because it wasn’t enough. There is no burden of proof for a lot of these people and a lot of people are taking advantage of the system,” the woman told the board. “I fully accept that there are people that need this program … but … I can’t even feed my own family … where is the justice for the people like me?”
However, tenant advocates warned of a dramatic uptick in evictions when the state protection expires.
“We are on the cusp of an eviction tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of tenants are at risk,” Ruby Rivera of InnerCity Struggle told the board. “The state’s eviction protections fall short of what tenants need to stay safe in their homes.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, said the county’s aim is to move slowly enough in lifting protections to mitigate disruptive displacements that could increase homelessness countywide.
“Los Angeles County’s temporary tenant emergency protections have served as a safety net for both residential and commercial renters of the same communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Solis said. “That is why we must continue to provide protections for those who are struggling to pay rent and on the verge of falling into homelessness.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for gathering more data as the board considers how to phase out and lift all restrictions.