In Last-Minute Vote, LA County Leaders Approve Two-Month Extension Of COVID Renter Protections

With just one week left until pandemic-era eviction rules were set to expire, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend COVID-19 renter protections for another two months.

Hollywood apartment houses Shutterstock_2242494987 Low-income tenants across L.A. County who can’t pay rent due to hardships brought on by the pandemic were scheduled to lose eviction protections after Jan. 31. The expiration could have left an estimated 226,000 households in the region with past-due rent vulnerable to eviction if they couldn’t pay February rent on time.

The extension, approved Tuesday evening after a lengthy public comment period, will keep those pandemic-related eviction safeguards in place through March 31.

“For many individuals who are still struggling, homelessness is unfortunately a next potential step if we don’t take further action,” Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Horvath had originally proposed extending the protections through June 30, but they reached a compromise with Supervisor Janice Hahn, who wanted to sunset the rules sooner. In the final vote, Horvath, Solis and Hahn voted in favor of the two-month extension. Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against it, and Supervisor Holly Mitchell abstained.

Last-Minute Change In Plans

The extension represents an abrupt shift. County leaders had initially planned to end COVID-19 eviction protections after December 2022. But supervisors approved a one-month extension to the end of January 2023 due to a “respiratory illness trifecta” involving COVID-19, seasonal flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Hahn was reluctant to support an extension, saying, “There’s a sense, particularly from our landlords, that they’re looking for honesty and transparency from us. When we said the last [extension] was the last, and then we’re extending it another six months, that’s what I have an issue with.”

Before Tuesday’s vote, local landlords and tenant rights groups had been preparing for the COVID-19 rules to go away come February. Eviction attorneys told landlords they would soon be able to remove non-paying tenants. Renter advocates were gearing up to help tenants defend themselves against an expected surge in eviction filings.

The L.A. City Council voted last week on a package of new protections that vastly expand tenant rights, based in large part on the assumption that pandemic-related safeguards would go away across the county in February. But now, local COVID-19 tenant protections will remain in place throughout L.A. County, including within the city of L.A.

Tuesday’s vote includes a two-month extension of eviction protections for tenants who brought unauthorized occupants or pets into their homes during the pandemic. The L.A. City Council passed a one-year extension last week. Tenants living anywhere in L.A. County will need to work out arrangements with landlords to keep pandemic roommates and pets in place after the protections expire.

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Relief Funds Coming For Small Landlords — Will They Be Enough?

In approving the extension of tenant protections, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors also voted in favor of setting up relief programs for small landlords dealing with ongoing lack of rental income.

Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell said any extension of protections for non-paying tenants should be coupled with funds for landlord relief.

They put forward a motion asking for county staff to report back within 14 days on potential fundings sources for a new $45 million relief program. This program would be designed to prioritize landlords with no more than four rental units. Landlords would need to agree to not evict tenants over unpaid rent in order to receive funding.

The supervisors approved that motion, along with the creation of a much smaller $3 million “Mom-and-Pop” Assistance Program that, once started, would provide up to $30,000 to cover losses due to unpaid rent. Under this program, landlords who no longer have mortgages on their rental properties and rely on tenant payments for income would be eligible.

Additional Rent Relief

Separately, the county supervisors approved another $2 million in funding for rent relief through the organization Stay Housed LA to be funded through federal COVID-19 relief money.

As they have for years, local landlord groups opposed continuing the pandemic tenant protections. Max Sherman with the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles said supervisors previously expressed concern over the struggle of small landlords.

“How can county rental housing providers and renters be expected to know, let alone understand, the county’s ever-changing provisions and timelines?” Sherman asked. “It’s time for the county to join [the city of] Los Angeles and the state and end these measures, allowing rental housing providers to return to normal operations, as all other industries have been able to do.”

But housing advocates said removing eviction protections now could lead to a surge in homelessness at a time when L.A. rents are rising and tenants struggle to secure new housing.

Zeke Sandoval, a public policy manager with People Assisting The Homeless, said in his comments supporting the extension, “It’s simple: tenant protection is homelessness prevention.”

Source: LAist