Can’t pay rent because of COVID-19? Here’s how to stay in your home

Long Beach leaders on Tuesday passed protections for renters that include blocking evictions through May 31.

Under the local law passed by the City Council, tenants would have through November to make up missed or partial payments that occurred in April or May.

The city left parts of the law intentionally ambiguous—such as what proof of hardship is needed to qualify for the relief—to limit restrictions and barriers to those who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, said Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony.

“Certain tenants who are legitimately impacted could not qualify because they can’t come up with the documentation that was outlined in the ordinance,” Anthony said.

Ultimately the ordinance will rely on trust between the landlord and the tenant, or the courts if things escalate to that point, Anthony said.

The ordinance went into effect at midnight Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The moratorium does not waive rent payments. It allows renters to put off having to pay for the next two months, but the payments must be made eventually.
  • The ordinance covers only eviction notices issued between March 4 and May 31. 
  • The ordinance does not cover other types of evictions. It covers only evictions that stem from financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.
  • Any eviction notice issued after March 25 must include a notice from the landlord advising the tenant of their right to defer rent under the emergency law.
  • Rent for April and May are the only months that can be deferred through the end of November. Regular monthly payments must be made starting in June and any missed or incomplete payments must be up made by Nov. 30.
  • Tenants are encouraged, but not required, to make partial payments if they are able.
  • If a tenant receives a notice, they must notify the landlord of their inability to pay and would have three days to provide documentation.
  • Documentation can vary from pay stubs reflecting a loss of hours and having to provide childcare to notes from supervisors or doctors showing that a tenant has been forced home or has lost income because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
  • A positive test for COVID-19 is not required as evidence, but a letter from an employer or even the tenant explaining to the landlord that they’re self-isolating could serve as evidence.
  • The ordinance could be amended in the future to potentially extend some of these deadlines if the economy continues to be shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19.

If you are a tenant and need help, call Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles at 800-399-4529 or Long Beach Residents Empowered at 562-444-5147.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.