Coronavirus, Long Beach, News

Long Beach City Council passes moratorium on evictions

The Long Beach City Council unanimously passed a moratorium on evictions related to nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 Tuesday. 

The moratorium applies to all nonpayment evictions from March 4 to May 31, with the option for councilmembers to extend the period if necessary. 

“We are already seeing the deadly impacts of this virus on our community,” Councilmember Mary Zendejas said. “It’s more important than ever that we stay at home and in place and practice social distancing.”

Councilmembers themselves practiced social distancing this week by holding their entire meeting via teleconference. 

In order to qualify for the moratorium, tenants must have lost a substantial portion of their income due to COVID-19. This includes losses caused by layoffs, reduction in hours, decrease in business income or substantial medical expenses. 

“Some of my residents, if they could, would absolutely pay their rent,” Vice Mayor Dee Andrews said. “But food and health are top priorities right now.”

Councilmembers debated over whether to define “substantial” by a percentage value, but decided to echo the language of the state’s legislature and leave it undefined. 

Those served a three-day eviction notice between March 4 and March 24 must formally notify their landlord that they are not able to pay rent to qualify for the protections of the moratorium.

In addition, tenants must also provide documentation that their nonpayment of rent is due to circumstances related to COVID-19. Both the notification and documentation must be sent before the expiration of their “pay or quit” eviction notices. 

Tenants have until Nov. 30 to pay all delayed rent. Though landlords cannot charge any late fees incurred during this period, they are able to evict if the tenant fails to pay their regular monthly rent after May 31. 

“We are hoping and assuming the tenant will be incentivized to pay what they can, because at some point this ordinance will sunset,” Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony said. “This is not rent relief. The tenant will have to bring rent current.”

Though the ordinance protects residential and commercial nonpayment of rent, it does not address mortgage payments. Councilmember Rex Richardson, who helped draft the ordinance, pointed out that local governments do not have the power to provide mortgage relief. 

“I want to make sure that we take everybody into account. The tenants, the housing providers, everyone is going to suffer,” Zendejas said. “This is our opportunity to really push our federal and state support.”

To emphasize their support for owners, councilmembers unanimously voted to amend the ordinance and add a “whereas” clause acknowledging that COVID-19 may affect owners and that partial payment of rent, if possible, is encouraged. 

“Right now, we can’t shelter in place without shelter,” Richardson said. “We have to make sure we look out for people.”

The ordinance will go into effect on March 25 at noon. 

The next city council meeting will take place via teleconference on Tuesday, April 7. 

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