COVID-19 EVICTION MORATORIUM

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

To assist residential renters who have been economically impacted by the Coronavirus, the Mayor issued an Eviction Moratorium Emergency Order

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic. On March 15th, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti issued an Emergency Order which implemented a number of measures designed to protect the public and contain the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, the Mayor issued a temporary moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent for tenants who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These circumstances may include:

  1. Loss of income due to work place closure or reduced hours due to COVID-19
  2. Loss of income or child care expenditures due to school closures
  3. Health care expenditures stemming from COVID-19 infection of the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household who is ill with COVID-19
  4. Reasonable expenditures stemming from government ordered emergency measures.

The Mayor’s Order emphasizes that tenants are still obligated to pay lawfully charged rent. However, during the emergency period, tenants may not be evicted for failure to pay rent due to the financial impacts related to COVID-19. Tenants will have up to six (6) months following the expiration of the local emergency to repay any back rent due. Please note that the City Council may extend the repayment period as necessary in response to the emergency.

Subsequently, California Governor Newsom issued a similar Executive Order to Protect Renters and Homeowners during the pandemic. The Governor’s order is in effect through May 31, 2020.

How will HCIDLA implement the residential eviction moratorium?

Affirmative Defense – Both the Governor’s and the Mayor’s Emergency Orders provide tenants facing eviction an affirmative defense if the proposed eviction is for non-payment of rent and the tenant’s inability to pay rent results from circumstances related to the COVID-19 emergency. In other words, tenants or their attorneys can raise the existence of this moratorium as a defense in an Unlawful Detainer action. Tenants or their attorneys may argue that they are an Affected Tenant by providing documentation to the Landlord that they have lost substantial income. Examples of documentation may include, but are not limited to, a letter from the employer citing COVID-19 as a reason for reduced work hours or termination, employer paycheck stubs, or bank statements.

HCIDLA Administrative Process – Additionally, the Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA) proposes to implement the Mayor’s Order in keeping with existing eviction protections afforded to tenants under the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). Alleged violations of the RSO are investigated by Rent Housing Investigators who review tenant complaints. Eviction complaints can be filed electronically or through the HCIDLA Hotline and will be assigned to a Housing Investigator. The Housing Investigator will investigate the tenant’s claim and advise the landlord and tenant of their findings and the application of the Emergency Order. The investigative review process will include:

Initial Review

  • Verification of the tenant’s receipt of a “Notice to Pay Rent or Quit”
  • Review of tenant’s documentation related to their loss of income as a result of:
    1. Loss of income due to work place closure or reduced hours or services due to COVID-19
    2. Child care expenditures or inability to work due to school closures
    3. Health care expenditures stemming from COVID-19 infection of the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household who is ill with COVID-19
    4. Reasonable expenditures stemming from government ordered emergency measures.
    5. Any additional factors relevant to the tenant’s reduction in income as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

Tenants will be advised that they should provide their landlord with notice that they are an Affected Tenant as a result of COVID-19 before the expiration of any Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.

Determination and Communication to the Landlord

If a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit has been issued and supporting documents provided, then the Housing Investigator will send a letter out to the landlord requesting cancellation of the Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. The letter will communicate that tenant’s inability to pay rent stems from circumstances outlined in the Mayor’s Public Order Under City of LA Emergency Authority COVID-19, thus allowing the tenant to repay any back due rent up to six months following the expiration of the local emergency, or work out an alternate payment agreement with their landlord.

Post Investigation and Communication to the Tenants

HCIDLA will provide thorough information to the tenant that can be used to support the affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer action. The tenant will also be provided with legal referrals and communicate the need for legal assistance. It will also note that the Public Order Under City of LA Emergency Authority COVID-19 does not mean that rent will be waived during the emergency period; tenants will still have the legal obligation to pay rent.

Questions and Answers

Who does the eviction moratorium apply to?

The Mayor’s Emergency Order applies to all residential and commercial rentals in the City of Los Angeles, including apartments, duplexes, condominiums and single-family dwellings. The moratorium applies to all renters, regardless of immigration status.

Does the moratorium apply to all evictions?

The current moratorium applies to residential or commercial evictions stemming from failure to pay rent when the tenant is unable to pay the rent as a result of loss of income related to the Coronavirus as outlined above. This advisory covers residential evictions only.

Does this change any other provision of the law?

No, the current Emergency Order does not change any landlord and/or tenant rights and responsibilities under existing laws, such as the RSO and AB 1482. At present, the existing RSO and AB 1482 eviction and relocation assistance provisions still apply to other types of evictions, both at fault and no-fault evictions.

Does this mean tenants do not have to pay their rent?

Both the Mayor’s and the Governor’s Orders emphasize that tenants are still obligated to pay lawfully charged rent. However, during the emergency period, tenants may not be evicted for failure to pay rent due to the financial impacts related to COVID-19. Tenants will have up to 6 months following the expiration of the local emergency to repay any back rent due. Landlords and tenants may mutually work out a payment schedule or arrangements for repayment of rent.

Where can tenants obtain help or information?

First, both the Mayor’s and Governor’s orders provide an affirmative defense to tenants facing eviction as a result of their inability to pay rent due to the loss of wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Renters should seek assistance from legal services providers in responding to any Unlawful Detainer action filed by their landlords. Legal referrals may be found at: Click here for legal referrals.

Any tenant of a residential property in the City of Los Angeles who receives a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit should inform their landlord that they are an Affected Tenant as a result of COVID-19 before the expiration of any Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. Tenants may seek information and assistance from the Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA) by calling 866-557-RENT OR 866-557-7368 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, or by filing a complaint online at: www.hcidla.lacity.org/File-a-Complaint.

What should tenants do while they are waiting for their eviction complaints to be processed by HCID?

Eviction complaints are prioritized; tenants should work closely with their Housing Investigator and provide information requested. Tenants do not have to leave their units unless they are served with a Sheriff’s Order, which happens after the case is heard in Court. If served with an Unlawful Detainer filing, tenants should seek legal assistance.

How long is the eviction moratorium in effect?

Under the Emergency Order issued by Governor Newsom, the eviction moratorium is in effect until May 31, 2020.

Is there rental assistance available for renters who cannot pay their rent?

Although the current Order does not address rental assistance, the City is reviewing options for a rental assistance program.

Is there financial assistance for landlords who suffer a loss of income as a result of tenants’ inability to pay their rent?

Landlords may be able apply for a disaster loan related to economic damage from the Coronavirus crisis through the Small Business Administration: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

Updates will be posted at www.hcidla.lacity.org.

Original post: https://hcidla.lacity.org/covid-19-eviction-moratorium

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