Locke Lord QuickStudy: Eviction Moratoria during Coronavirus Pandemic

Locke Lord LLP
March 19, 2020

California Governor Gavin Newson issued an executive order on March 16, 2020 authorizing California cities to ban local evictions for residential and commercial tenants for nonpayment of rent as a result of loss of income related to COVID-19. 

On March 16, 2020 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a moratorium on residential evictions for residents unable to pay rent as a result of the coronavirus.  The next day Mayor Garcetti announced a moratorium through March 31, 2020, unless extended, on evictions of commercial tenants adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the moratorium is in place landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant if the tenant is able to show that it is unable to pay rent as a result of circumstances related to the pandemic.  Examples of circumstances precluding eviction include loss of business income as a result of closure of the workplace, child care expenditures due to school closures, health care expenditures as a result of being ill with the virus or treating a member of the tenant’s household ill with the virus, or reasonable expenditures incurred as a result of government ordered emergency measures.  Under the Mayor’s directive, eligible tenants will have three (3) months after the expiration of the moratorium to repay back rent.

The same day, the Los Angeles City Council approved several emergency motions, including a moratorium on evictions and late fees, for residential and commercial tenants, for people affected by the loss or reduction of work hours as a result of the pandemic.  The moratorium would provide affected tenants with six (6) months to pay past due rent.  The motion includes a provision authorizing the City Attorney to issue penalties to landlords who do not advise tenants of their rights.  The Council directed the City Attorney to develop a more detailed plan for the eviction moratorium and it is anticipated that the emergency ordinance will be approved by the Council and enacted the week of March 23.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced a similar moratorium on residential and commercial evictions, retroactive to March 4 and continuing until May 31.  As with the City Council’s proposed ordinance, tenants will have six (6) months after the expiration of the moratorium to make up rental arrearages.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also proposed a moratorium on evictions for those who lost income or suffered other adverse economic impacts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Her proposal was expected to take effect March 18 and will continue for thirty (30) days.  San Francisco County Supervisors are considering similar legislation. 

Municipalities around the country have adopted such protections and relief for residential and commercial tenants in their communities. As reported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Delaware has postponed landlord/tenant proceedings until after May 1, Maryland has banned evictions during the state of emergency, New York has suspended evictions until further notice and is considering legislation banning evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic, North Carolina has approved a ninety (90) day ban on evictions and a large number of cities have enacted or are considering similar restrictions on evictions.  

Obviously, the eviction moratoria place a significant burden on landlords who are operating without similar relief from their lenders.  Although the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Wednesday, March 18, that it would suspend all evictions and foreclosures on government backed mortgages for sixty (60) days, more action will be required to assist other landlords.  Senator Bernie Sanders has advocated for Congress to act to prevent all evictions and foreclosures, but at this point the Trump administration has not embraced such action.

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center often for up-to-date information to help you stay informed of the legal issues related to COVID-19.