Many LA County Tenants Protected from Rent Hikes during Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening people’s health and livelihood, the Board of Supervisors have taken significant and timely steps to protect renters.

During their March 31st meeting, the Board unanimously ratified an Executive Order that Chair Kathryn Barger issued on March 19th to impose a temporary moratorium on evictions during the emergency caused by COVID-19.

Building on this effort, the Board also unanimously banned rent increases for thousands of tenants in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County under a motion introduced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Both the eviction moratorium and rent freeze are retroactive from March 4th and apply at least through May 31st. On March 27th, the Governor also issued an Executive Order that authorized a moratorium on evictions statewide.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renters, file photo.

“People have enough to worry about right now, with COVID-19. They shouldn’t also have to fear ending up on the streets because they can’t pay rent,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this motion, the County is taking urgent and necessary steps to help people stay housed and prevent the coronavirus from exacerbating our affordable housing shortage and the crisis of homelessness.”

The rent freeze currently protects tenants who live in multi-family housing built before February 1995 in the unincorporated areas. At Supervisor Hilda Solis and Chair Barger’s request, the County’s lawyers are evaluating whether the protections approved by the Board can be expanded to protect tenants countywide. Rents can go up as much as 8 percent over a 12-month period in some jurisdictions.

“A rent freeze will be an invaluable relief for so many in our community who worry non-stop about how to make ends meet,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of HOPE for All, an economic justice and opportunity advocacy organization. “Thanks to the Supervisor and Los Angeles County for taking the initiative to keep individuals and families in their homes during these precarious, frightening times.”

“A rent freeze will go a long way toward helping people whose lives have been drastically upended by this pandemic,” said Rev. Zachary Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, a multi-racial federation of 70 churches, synagogues and mosques across the County. “It’s commendable that the Supervisor and Los Angeles County are doing whatever they can to ease the burden that COVID-19 has placed on our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. This is not only smart, it’s morally the right thing to do. When we care for one of us, we care for all of us.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renters, file photo.

Alberto Retana, president & CEO of the nonprofit Community Coalition, hailed the rent freeze. “Community Coalition applauds Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for introducing the amendment to deepen tenant protections by implementing a rent freeze,” he said. “The Board’s unanimous approval further demonstrates that the Supervisors are doing everything in their power to keep residents in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. It will take members of the community, especially low-income renters, months to recover economically. This rent freeze goes a long way in making sure they are not burdened by the added stress of unrealistic repayment obligations.”

Meanwhile, the County’s eviction moratorium, reinforced by Governor Newsom’s March 27th Executive Order, applies to people unable to pay rent due to the following circumstances:

  • Being diagnosed with COVID-19, or caring for a household or family member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • A layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from a business closure or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19;
  • Compliance with a recommendation from the County’s Health Officer to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency;
  • Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses related to diagnosis and testing for and/or treatment of COVID-19; or
  • Childcare needs arising from school closures related to COVID-19.

Tenants must provide notice to the landlord within seven days after the date the rent was due, unless extenuating circumstances exist, and tenants shall have six months following the termination of the executive order to pay back any rent due.

The County is also looking at ways to support property owners. The County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and the State of California, for example, are reaching out to financial institutions to seek relief for them.

On March 25th, Governor Newsom announced that four major banks, including JP Morgan, Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Citibank have so far committed to a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments in California. Bank of America also announced a commitment to a 30-day forbearance period for mortgage payments.

For more information, visit www.ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/eviction-moratorium or https://dcba.lacounty.gov/noevictions/