The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the county’s eviction moratorium through February 28. The motion, proposed by supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, also strengthens and clarifies protections for renters facing intimidation or harassment from landlords.
“We recognize that this could be a real tsunami of evictions if the county did not step up and protect our renters in a responsible way,” said Kuehl. “No one should be threatened with eviction or made homeless by the pandemic.”
The county first passed an eviction moratorium in March last year, which was later extended through the end of January 2021. In September, California also enacted its own statewide eviction moratorium for tenants unable to pay rent during the pandemic, which is currently set to expire at the end of this month.
In addition to extending the L.A. County moratorium by a month, effective immediately, Tuesday’s motion also clarifies what landlords can and cannot do. For example, it protects renters who are facing eviction because they denied a landlord’s non-emergency request to enter their unit.
The motion also included some renter protections currently provided under the state law, which would go into effect on February 1 if the state’s moratorium is not extended.
A UCLA study last year determined that as many as 449,000 people in L.A. County could face eviction because of the economic slump caused by coronavirus and inability to pay rent.
Meanwhile, eviction defense lawyers say they’ve seen an uptick in illegal conduct by landlords, including lockouts and frivolous lawsuits.
Attorney Amy Tannenbaum with Public Counsel said while the actions taken by the county are much-needed, they don’t go far enough.
“Any protections that we can get are going to be better than nothing, of course,” said Tannenbaum. “That being said, what tenants rights organizations and tenants unions have been putting forward is this comprehensive demand of cancelling rent.”
Tannenbaum also said a complete stay of eviction court proceedings is needed to keep people in their homes.
“The current protections that provide long repayment plans or push off eviction are really not doing enough to provide peace of mind to tenants about what’s going to happen when that rent bill eventually comes due,” said Tannenbaum.
Several public commenters called in to the meeting to voice support for cancelling rent and mortgages, referencing a proposal by a network of advocacy groups known as the Healthy LA Coalition.
“We’re sitting in the epicenter of a global pandemic and people all over L.A. are facing the looming threat of eviction,” said one commenter who identified herself as Lucia Pierre. “Temporary moratoriums amount to a stay of execution for people who have been accumulating debilitating rent debt for the past nine months.”
The L.A. County update comes as California lawmakers consider extending the statewide eviction ban through the end of 2021, with Assembly Bill 16.
The Board of Supervisors also unanimously approved two motions to update the county’s rent relief programs, in the wake of the recent COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress that includes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.
“When L.A. County receives our allocation of those new funds, we need to be in the best possible position to deploy them to the renters in need as soon as possible, and these motions will help us achieve that goal,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who introduced the motions.
County leaders encouraged residents with questions about what the changes mean for them to reach out to the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.
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