City Council to Discuss COVID-19 Emergency Order on June 24

A question on the mind of many tenants is when will the tenant protections enacted under the Beverly Hills COVID–19 emergency order come to an end. City of Beverly Hills imposed a moratorium on evictions for non-payment and blocked no-fault evictions last fall. Subsequently city council amended the emergency order to put a moratorium on rent increases for rent-stabilized tenants too. With state emergency orders getting rolled-back when will state and local tenant protections expire? We may know more on Thursday June 24 when city council discusses it.

Update City council did not make any changes to the residential aspect of the urgency ordinance and did not identify any future date to sunset the moratorium tenant protections.

An emergency alert that went out to residents today:

The Beverly Hills City Council will be meeting virtually on June 24th at the 7 p.m. Formal Session to address the City’s emergency ordinance and make any necessary updates.

That was a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, it has been a full year since the city’s Coronavirus news page mentioned anything about the tenant protections. Residents seem to have been an afterthought in comparison to city businesses and tenants usually merit less consideration that homeowners.

Second, as it happens we just reached out to city hall for more information about the emergency and when tenant protections may end. As of YESTERDAY there was nothing to know. “At this time we have not identified a date for the local emergency declaration to end,” said Laura Biery, the Marketing & Economic Sustainability Manager for Beverly Hills. The Emergency Management Manager, Meena Janmohamed, didn’t have any additional information to add either.

Deputy director of the rent stabilization Helen Morales had nothing for tenants either. “With regards to the end of the eviction moratorium, we have no indication at this point when City Council will be making the decision to end the eviction moratorium,” she said. “We expect to hear something soon.” Soon indeed! Just hours later the emergency alert popped up.

Tenants are always the last to know. Consider that the rent stabilization division has not provided any update on local and state eviction protections since March. (Read the update.)
We have a date and time but still we have no information about what will be discussed. That will likely come the Monday preceding — just a few days ahead. For some that means more anxiety about having to pay the full rent or, worse, having to pay the full rent plus a rent increase.

Now that we are entering into a “new phase of the pandemic,” according to the county, we can look forward to a “safer return together at work and in the community.” What does that mean for tenant protections? Until now the state, county and city have been mum.

What Happens Next?

At the June 24th meeting council could take one of a few different courses of action:

  1. End the local emergency and with it the tenant protections such as the moratorium on eviction for nonpayment and the moratorium on rent increases;
  2. Extend the local emergency but amend the emergency order to end tenant protections sooner than the emergency period ends; or,
  3. Separately extend and establish a sunset date for tenant protections regardless of the declared emergency.

City council could, through an ordinance, extend tenant protections to a future date in order to provide a buffer for vulnerable tenants who are unprepared to begin paying full rent; or who cannot afford a rent increase at this time. There are such calls statewide to extend tenant protections because tenants who remain vulnerable to displacement can be squeezed between rent arrears, on one hand, and on the other hand pressure exerted by a landlord. Rents are on the rise again and landlords are already lobbying state legislators to let the eviction moratorium expire on June 30th.

Background to the Local Emergency Order

As a reminder, the Beverly Hills local COVID–19 emergency was declared in March 2020 in response to concerns about COVID–19. City council imposed a variety of measures to protect health and safety that included:

Protection from eviction for nonpayment will vary according to whether a Beverly Hills tenant took advantage of the state’s moratorium or used the city’s moratorium to delay the payment of rent.

State protection from eviction for nonpayment (pursuant to AB 3088, SB 91 and their successor, AB 81) was obtained when a household complied with the state’s program by paying at least 25% of rent due between September and June by June 30th. Under the state program rent arrears are payable starting July 1st. The landlord can pursue the arrears as consumer debt. Read the city’s March update for more information.

City protection kicked-in if a Beverly Hills tenant took advantage of the city’s process: the tenant must inform the landlord within 7 days that full rent could not be paid; the tenant then files a form with the landlord and the city attesting to need (with documentation); and if the landlord grants forbearance then must pay back the rent by August 31, 2022 — or one year after the end of the local emergency (whichever is earlier).

We cover some of the differences between these moratoriums in our explainer: Local Moratorium vs. Tenant Act Which Rules Apply?

Other city-level tenant protections enacted by Beverly Hills will stay in effect until the emergency order is rescinded if it ends all COVID–19 emergency measures too. Or the emergency order can be amended to extend some or all of the emergency measures to some future date. Or council could adopts an ordinance to separately keep the tenant protections (and perhaps establish a sunset date some time in the future after the emergency ends).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that some tenants are not ready to go back to business as usual. It is fine for Sacramento to say the state is open for business and Beverly Hills to follow suit, but households that cannot pay full rent, or who are vulnerable to displacement or eviction, will still have worries and they will outlast the emergency. Tenants under pressure are vulnerable to lowball cash-for-keys buyouts from the landlord, for example, and that is a process entirely unregulated by the city.

What council decides to do by tenants will make a big difference for the tenants still in need. Tune into the June 24th city council meeting live online or on BHTV Channel 10. We will have a wrap-up of the meeting shortly afterward on Renters Alliance.

Tenants who are served with a 15-day notice to pay-or-quit or a notice from the landlord that appears intended to intimidate should contact the city’s legal services provider Bet Tzedek at (323) 939–0506. Make sure to follow the prompts for Beverly Hills tenants (important). Hopefully you will get a call back in 24 or 48 hours. Tenants who are tendered a buyout offer are welcome to get in touch with Renters Alliance. We can’t offer legal advice but we can talk about what is in a tenant’s best interest.

Have you experienced any difficulties with the process to delay the rent or been unable to access emergency tenant protections? Please get in touch with Renters Alliance!