More County Tenant Protections: Unauthorized Occupants and Buyouts

County of Los Angeles Supervisors in early January adopted a resolution that provide tenants with new protections during the COVID pandemic emergency. In addition to limiting landlord access except in cases of emergency and protecting tenants from harassment, the Supervisors have expanded the county rental assistance program too. But there’s more: protection for unauthorized occupants and from pressure to accept a cash-for-keys buyout. Let’s take a look!

County Eviction Moratorium is Extended — and More Rent Relief is On the Way

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has been busy recently by enacting a raft of protections for tenants and landlords affected by COVID–19. There are additional protections for ‘mom and pop’ landlords and for tenants there is protection against eviction for non-payment or where the tenant is not at-fault. Read more at the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs temporary moratorium website.

Local moratoriums (like the one enacted by Beverly Hills in the spring) include such protection but the county has extended that protection to all county renters. But the supervisors went further than local moratoriums like ours by enacting additional protections to keep county tenants housed. There is protection from landlord entry when no emergency exists and measures to outlaw landlord harassment of tenants. The new provisions were enacted when the board extended the county eviction moratorium on January 5th.

Most notably the Supervisors expanded the Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program and extended it through December. The key points:

  • Rental assistance for COVID-affected tenants is increased from $7,500 to $10,000 when a household earns less than 50% of area median income;
  • Rent relief is now applicable not only to rent arrears but to future rent obligations;
  • Rent relief may be provided to tenants directly when the landlord refuses to participate in the program; and,
  • Relief is extended to tenants who have remained current on the rent “at the expense of their financial wellbeing” by paying with credit cards and “high-cost” loans like payday lending.

Read more about the protections available to Los Angeles County tenants at the Stay Housed website. For immediate assistance with county relief call 1–888–694–0040.

New Protections Will Apply Also to Beverly Hills Tenants

Supervisors also spoke up strongly and unanimously on January 5th in their Resolution Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium to enact new protections beyond those that Beverly Hills renters currently enjoy under our own local moratorium. These include:

  • “A Residential Tenant shall not be evicted for nuisance or for unauthorized occupants or pets whose presence is necessitated by or related to the COVID–19 emergency” — Resolution subsection V(A)(3)
  • “A Residential Tenant shall not be evicted on the ground that such tenant denied entry by the Landlord” except to remedy a condition that endangers health or safety — V(A)(4)
  • “Landlords, and those acting on their behalf, are prohibited from harassing or intimidating Tenants… [by] attempting to coerce a Tenant to vacate with offers of payment to vacate which are accompanied with threats or intimidation” — VIII(L)
  • “Landlords, and those acting on their behalf, are prohibited from harassing or intimidating Tenants… [by] refusing to acknowledge receipt of a Tenant’s lawful rent payment [or] refusing to cash a rent check for over thirty (30) days” — VIII(M-N)
  • “Interfering with the right of a Residential Tenant to: organize as tenants and engage in concerted activities with other tenants for the purpose of mutual aid…or distribute and post literature informing other tenants of their rights….” — VIII(T)

Importantly the Resolution grants tenants an ‘affirmative defense’ against eviction in unlawful detainer cases where the court has not ordered possession to be returned to the landlord. Too often we have seen landlords attempt to intimidate a tenant into self-evicting by having an attorney sent an intimidating and threatening letter. The Board of Supervisors think otherwise and for good measure added, “Said affirmative defenses shall survive the termination or expiration of this Moratorium and shall be fully enforceable thereafter” (Resolution subsection XXIII).

Our Take-Away

The Board of Supervisors clearly understand that tenants are uniquely vulnerable during the pandemic and that landlords may act in ways that are contrary to the public interest. The Resolution Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium codifies some necessary protections that go beyond most local moratoriums.

Most notably these additional protections will provide Beverly Hills tenants a measure of comfort beyond those in our own local moratorium, which protects COVID–19 affected tenants only from eviction for non-payment, from no-fault evictions, and which also prohibits rent increases during the period of the local emergency.

In particular the protections that limit unit access to emergency repairs and that bar landlords for evicting for unauthorized occupants (and pets!) are especially important. A pandemic is no time for a landlord to march prospective tenants or buyers through an occupied tenant’s apartment! And no tenant should have to choose between forcing-out a pet or partner in order to stay housed at this time.

On January 12th we recommended that such a prohibition be added to our local moratorium but the council has not yet acted. We should also have proposed the eviction prohibition for unauthorized occupants. Thankfully the county is leading the way.

One final note: Beverly Hills tenants may not be aware of these new protections. They were enacted on January 5th by the County Board of Supervisors. But we haven’t heard a word about it from our rent stabilization division. It’s another instance of our RSO office’s failure to communicate with tenants.