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City Council to Hear More Proposals for Tenant Protections Today

The empty council chambers during the March 17 meeting.

Councilmember Mike Bonin took to social media yesterday to announce that he and councilmember David Ryu would be pushing for greater tenant protections at today's city council meeting at 10 a.m.

In addition to reintroducing a motion for an eviction moratorium, he said, they would also be submitting proposals to: classify COVID-19 rental debt as consumer debt (making it ineligible as cause of eviction); call upon the state of California and the federal government to cancel mortgage/rent payments and provide for rent forgiveness; and freeze rents in place. They would also be joining other colleagues in proposing to use the "Responsible Banking Ordinance to push banks to provide mortgage relief and rent cancellation, and to allow neighborhood councils to more nimbly respond to this crisis at the community level." [See the full motion here and here.]

Those who have tuned in to the last two city council proceedings will recall Bonin's advocacy for tenants as one of the few bright spots in lengthy sessions that showcased just how indifferent so many of the councilmembers were to the needs of their most vulnerable constituents. [See recaps of the March 17 and March 27 meetings.]

Not long after broadcasting his plans to social media yesterday, Bonin got a boost in the quest to protect tenants from the Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the California courts. The ruling by the Judicial Council effectively brings a halt to all evictions - minus those tied to public health and safety - until 90 days after the governor lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency order.

According to the Western Center on Poverty and Law, the ruling specifically

    • Prohibits a court from issuing a summons after a landlord files an eviction case or requiring the tenant to respond until after the rule is lifted.
    • Prohibits a court from entering an automatic default judgment against the tenant because the tenant failed to file a response.
    • For eviction cases where the tenant has responded or appeared, prohibits a court from setting the case for trial earlier than 60 days after a trial is requested.
    • Requires any trial in an eviction case that was already scheduled as of April to be postponed until at least 60 days after the initial trial date.

For landlords concerned about going into foreclosure should their tenants miss rent, the Judicial Council also ruled to halt court-ordered foreclosures and postpone any legal deadlines for filing foreclosure cases for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.

The rulings are valuable for allowing tenants, homeowners, and landlords alike to be able to continue to tread water through early summer. But without rent and mortgage forgiveness, those on the margins will still be at risk of being pushed out of their residences at a later date. And it does not prevent landlords from being able to push people out in other ways. Just presenting tenants with a 3-day pay-or-quit notice is enough to intimidate some tenants into leaving.

To hear how your councilmembers plan to address these issues, tune in to the city council meeting at lacity.org/government/fol or on Channel 35. You can also listen in via council phone: (213) 621-2489. To offer public comment during the meeting, call (669) 900-6833 and use Meeting ID number 459 499 150. Then press #, and press # again when prompted for ID. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. Find the agenda here.

I'll be live tweeting debate highlights and decisions via twitter: @sahrasulaiman

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