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Evictions Set to Begin for Local Residents with Pre-COVID Judgments

Published on Monday, August 10, 2020 | 3:00 am
 

At least 11 Pasadena residents were scheduled to be locked out of their homes this week, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office.

The evictions are among 1,000 evictions being enforced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The evictions began before the pandemic and cannot be halted by orders that banned lockouts after the pandemic crisis began.

Barger’s office did not provide additional information on those facing evictions, including their employment status or the number of people living in each residence.

Many moratoriums, including Pasadena’s, prohibit landlords from evicting residential tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant is unable to pay rent due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, unless the eviction is necessary for health and safety reasons.

Deputies are serving tenants with five-day notices, giving them the opportunity to seek a stay or emergency relief from a court, according to Barger’s office.

Once a court issues a valid writ to the sheriff, the sheriff is required by law to enforce it “without delay.”

Absent a further court order, the sheriff must execute the writ of possession.

The county assesses evictions on a case-by-case basis, with a thorough review by the Los Angeles County Counsel.

In some instances, landlords have been going through a lengthy court process, sometimes well over a year, to process eviction orders for tenants that have not paid rent for extended periods of time for reasons completely unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors had extended its own local moratorium on evictions through at least July 30 for residential and commercial tenants. The countywide moratorium applies to all local jurisdictions unless they have enacted their own moratoriums.

Under the county’s moratorium, residential tenants are given up to 12 months after the moratorium expires to repay missed rent.

In addition to the tenant protections established by the eviction moratorium and its various expansions and extensions, the Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $100 million of its CARES Act funding allocated to the county to provide a countywide rent relief program.

This program is intended to provide support for renters as well as landlords struggling to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic and necessary public health orders.

The Los Angeles County Development Authority is currently preparing the framework of the program, but the program will not go live for at least two weeks, according to Barger’s office, well after many of the five-day notices have expired.

Local moratorium

Pasadena’s moratorium prohibits landlords from evicting residential tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant is unable to pay due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, or a no-fault eviction, unless necessary for health and safety reasons. The moratorium also prohibits landlords from evicting business tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant is unable to pay due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Tenants are required to repay any back rent within six months of the expiration of the emergency period. A landlord may not seek to recover late fees for rent that is delayed due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

In May, City Councilmembers voted against increasing the payback period to one year.

High rent district

Pasadena has some of the highest rents in Southern California. One website listed two-bedroom units at one apartment building for as high as $5,000.

“That’s an unfortunate decision made by the sheriff at a time where they’re facing extreme scrutiny,” said local housing advocate Allison Henry. “And, in fact, I don’t know if you’ve been following the County Board of Supervisors, but the Reimagine Coalition and Ballot Initiative were voted on to go to the November ballot.”

If the initiative passes, Reimagine L.A. would permanently shift 10 percent of L.A. County’s unrestricted funding from law enforcement to community services and programs, including affordable housing.

“If you’re not able to pay your rent to your current landlord, what landlord is going to now rent to you without a job?” said Ryan Bell, a former District 6 City Council candidate. “They’re going to be homeless. They’re going to be living in their cars or trying to find a friend or a family member to crash with, which is not ideal for either party.”

Housing advocates like Bell and Henry fear that the evictions are just the tip of the iceberg.

Tsunami of evictions

According to a recent study by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, about 365,000 renter households in Los Angeles County are in imminent danger of eviction once an order halting evictions is lifted.

According to the study, which was published in late May, by early May nearly 600,000 people in L.A County had lost their jobs and had no unemployment insurance or other income replacement.

Nearly 450,000 of those people live in 365,000 units of rental housing, and 558,000 children live in those households.

The study also found that people in 120,000 households in L.A. County will become homeless soon after.

The crisis could be made worse without a massive increase in legal services. Most tenants will face evictions within weeks simply because they won’t be able to file a sufficient legal response.

“Unless we take immediate action now to either prevent or prepare for the coming waves of eviction, the toll on those evicted will go beyond the damaging effects, especially for nearly a half-million children, of forced displacement itself,” the report states. “That toll is largely invisible, if no less painful. The much more visible and more painful toll will be seen in the massive increase in the numbers of Angelenos who lack both housing and shelter and are forced to fend for themselves.”

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