Yesterday brought some good news for people concerned about the strength and consistency of current rules regarding rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis. The California Judicial Council, which sets policy for state courts and helps implement orders from the Governor, declared that (as summarized in a story in the OC Register) “Almost all California foreclosures and evictions have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.” More specifically, according to the Register story, “The new rules mean borrowers and tenants do not have to respond to legal demands for payments during this period, and the rights to fight foreclosures and evictions are extended past the council’s freeze period.” Or, in even simpler language, there is now a statewide ban on almost all residential evictions and foreclosures, and tenants will have up to 12 months after restrictions are lifted to pay any overdue rent.
In a statement on social media yesterday after the state-level announcement, Los Angeles City Council Member David Ryu said, “Thank you to the California Judicial Council for halting eviction and foreclosure proceedings statewide. This is common sense, and what we need right now for people to feel safe in their homes.”
Ryu has recently been fighting misinformation from local landlords regarding late rent payments and how rents should be repaid after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. A story in the L.A. Times on April 5 reported that the Council Member sent stern letters to two local landlords who had conveyed false information to their tenants. One landlord told tenants they would have to immediately agree to a repayment plan if they miss a payment, and that they would have to turn over any federal stimulus or other charitable relief funds they might receive. The other landlord told tenants they would have to document that they have been specifically harmed by the COVID-19 crisis, by submitting things like bank statements and pay stubs, before they would be allowed to skip or reduce their rent payments. Neither of those things are true.
Instead, according to a COVID-19 Rental Protections Fact Sheet distributed by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID ), which oversees residential rental activity in the city:
Beginning March 4, 2020, through the end of the local emergency, no owner can evict a residential tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant is unable to pay rent because of circumstances related to the COVID‐19, such as:
- Loss of income due to workplace closure or reduced hours due to COVID‐19.
- Loss of income or increased child care expenditures due to school closures.
- Health care expenditures related to being ill with COVID‐19 or caring for a household member who is ill with COVID‐19.
- Loss of income relating to reasonable expenditures stemming from government ordered emergency measures.
The L.A. City Ordinance does not require tenants to provide their landlord notice or documentation if unable to pay rent due to COVID‐19, but tenants should keep documentation in the event of a court action.
That said, however, if you are facing any of the hardships mentioned above, you shouldn’t just stop paying rent. Instead, according to the Fact Sheet:
Tenants should notify their landlord of their inability to pay the full rent before the due date. The Governor’s Order indicates a tenant must notify their landlord in writing before rent is due or within 7 days after the rent due date. The L.A. City Ordinance does not require tenants to provide their landlord notice or documentation if unable to pay rent due to COVID‐19, but tenants should keep documentation in the event of a court action.
THE CITY ORDINANCE DOES NOT RELIEVE TENANTS OF THE OBLIGATION TO PAY RENT. TENANTS HAVE UP TO 12 MONTHS FROM THE EXPIRATION OF THE LOCAL EMERGENCY TO PAY BACK RENTS. LAND‐ LORDS MAY NOT CHARGE INTEREST OR A LATE FEE ON THE RENT.
A form renters can use to officially and properly notify their landlords if they are having trouble making rent payments is attached to the Fact Sheet (see link above).
To find out more about the current situation for renters and homeowners – and what rights renters and mortgage holders have under the current rules – Ryu will hold a telephone Town Hall meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8 , starting at 11 a.m. To sign up for the call, go to bit.ly/cd4register . Questions for Ryu and representatives of several local housing organizations can be submitted in advance at bit.ly/cd4renters.