As schools, work shut down, Garcetti puts moratorium on evictions

Landlords cautiously approve, tenants worry about implementation

Eric Garcetti issues partial citywide suspension of evictions (Credit:iStockphoto)
Eric Garcetti issues partial citywide suspension of evictions (Credit:iStockphoto)

UPDATE: On Monday night, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order putting a moratorium on evictions (as well as foreclosures). Like Garcetti’s order, the dual moratoriums apply specifically to coronavirus-related reasons for non-payment including loss of income or home and child care costs.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has issued a partial citywide suspension of evictions in response to the coronavirus, sparking landlord fears over lost income and worries among tenant advocates that renters may not hear about the emergency measure.

Garcetti issued an executive order Sunday night barring evictions from tenants, “who are able to show an inability to pay rent related to the COVID-19 pandemic” due to circumstances including lost work, taking care of children who attend the shuttered Los Angeles Unified School District, and health care costs incurred due to the coronavirus.

The Mayor’s order does make tenants pay back rent within six months after the indefinite emergency period expires.

Garcetti, whose seven years as mayor is already defined by the homeless crisis and city housing shortage, took action on the flashpoint issue of evictions before Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is set to announce statewide eviction guidelines later today. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have been largely mum on the matter.

Landlords reached Monday did not share any misgivings about an order in a city that is 64 percent renters, and the average rent of a one bedroom apartment is about $1,800 per month.

“Our focus right now is on the health and safety of tenants, residents, and employees,” said a spokesman from Jamison Properties Inc. whose vast Los Angeles holdings includes hundreds of apartment units.
Meanwhile, Neil Shekhter’s suite of companies including NMS Properties issued its own 45-day moratorium on evictions, with a pledge to “not evict anybody in any way affected by this crisis.”

“I’m sure there are a lot of people who will abuse the system,” said Shekther, whose companies rent out about 2,000 apartments in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. “As a landlord you will not be able to separate out the ones who are truly affected. But we are not going to evict anybody.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

If landlords are concerned about tenants exploiting emergency measures, tenants rights groups worry renters will never hear about the provisions in the first place.

“It’s a struggle to find communications during a time of partial social shutdown,” said Walt Senterfitt, a co-founder of the Los Angeles Tenants Union.

Senterfitt said tenants may choose between rent payments or child care expenses unless they either pay close attention to the news or are benevolently informed by landlords.

Casey Maddren, executive director of United Neighborhoods of Los Angeles, shared a similar concern, pointing out that past city efforts to help renters — for example, a campaign informing tenants of their rent stabilization rights — was done largely on public transit trains and buses, which are expected to be far less utilized in the coming weeks.

Still, the renter advocates praised Garcetti’s measure as a decent first step, particularly in the absence of state and county guidelines.

In a marathon press conference Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom mentioned that the state would be issuing rules governing evictions, though the governor had yet to issue any such proclamation as of Monday afternoon.

The county, meanwhile, has not put forth any declaration. In an announcement Monday, the Board of Supervisors parroted city of Los Angeles directives to close bars, movie theaters and curb other aspects of civic life, but did not address evictions.

The county’s silence is troubling for renter’s rights advocates. The city of Los Angeles has over 4 million people, but the county has 10 million, including 88 municipalities and unincorporated areas. “We hope we don’t have to fight this jurisdiction by jurisdiction,” Senterfitt said.

Messages left Monday with the office of Kathryn Barger, chair of the County Board of Supervisors, were not returned.