60-Day Moratorium On Rent Evictions
Help follows 1 million jobs already lost due to virus-related shutdowns.
Gov. Gavin Newsom gave cash-strapped California renters 60 days to figure out how to pay the rent while facing work slowdowns or loss of income during the current pandemic.
Newsom signed an executive order Friday, March 27, banning all evictions through May 31 if a tenant is unable to pay his or her rent due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The order requires tenants to declare in writing to the landlord within seven days of the rental due date that they cannot pay all or part of their rent due to COVID-19.
Tenants are required to retain documentation showing they have suffered economic hardship due to the outbreak but are not required to submit it to the landlord in advance. The tenant also remains obligated to repay the full rent “in a timely manner” and can still face eviction after the moratorium is lifted.
A spokesman for the governor’s said the order applies to residential renters only, not commercial tenants.
Some representatives of California’s most financially vulnerable population cheered the move.
“A single statewide standard without onerous paperwork requirements makes this moratorium an extremely effective and immediate tool,” said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union California.
Others didn’t think Newsom went far enough. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment was disappointed, saying the order does not stop landlords from starting the evictions process.
“This is outrageously misleading, and the governor is failing to protect us,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, the alliance’s legal director.
With more than 1 million California jobs already lost due to business shutdowns, paying Southern California’s high rents becomes even more unaffordable for low-paid workers.
Economists at Zillow looked at the loss of two months’ pay for food and retail workers and found that a median rent of $1,300 in Los Angeles and Orange counties represented 53.3% of median annual income. In the Inland Empire, the $1,100 median rent represented 52.7% of income.
Newsom’s eviction moratorium came after the governor had previously authorized local cities and counties to adopt eviction limits on their own. According to the California Apartment Association, just 65 California jurisdictions took such action. That left tenants in 475 local jurisdictions without protections in case they are unable to work or get laid off because of the outbreak.
“The governor has done a great job threading the needle at 120-miles per hour,” association CEO Tom Bannon told the Bay Area News Group. “We can live with this.”
The order appears to allow more restrictive local orders to be enforced, Bannon said. In Southern California, 28 jurisdictions adopted eviction moratoriums, the apartment association reported, including the city and county of Los Angeles, Anaheim, Santa Ana, West Hollywood, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Pasadena, Glendale, and Burbank.
Thirty-eight state lawmakers signed a letter Wednesday demanding the governor declare a statewide moratorium, echoing calls for statewide uniformity last week from dozens of housing advocates.
“During this emergency, our state needs one clear order that covers all tenants,” the letter from state lawmakers said.
Rent relief has won support from industry trade groups.
The California Apartment Association told its members on Monday, March 23 that landlords should freeze rents, stop evictions “absent extraordinary circumstances,” waive late-payment fees for impacted residents and offer flexible repayment options for those late rents — all through May 31.
“The last thing Californians need when they are struggling to maintain stability is to lose the safe place they call home,” the association’s statement said.
Under the order, justifiable reasons to miss rent payments include being sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19; experiencing a layoff, loss of hours or other income reduction because of the outbreak; or because the tenant needed to miss work to care for a child whose school was closed.
Some landlords have argued they can’t miss rent payments when they have their own financial obligations. But government-sponsored mortgage enterprises such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration have offered some forms of payment relief on residential investment property loans.
Two large California residential landlords had previously offered rent deferrals for tenants affected by the coronavirus shutdown.
Irvine Co., one of Orange County’s biggest landlords, offered to defer half of a tenant’s rent for two months to be repaid over the following six months. In addition, Essex Property Trust, with 23,000 rental units in Southern California, offered to stop evictions, waive late fees, and freeze rents for upcoming renewals for 90 days.