Eviction moratorium could be extended by City Council

Long Beach renters could be getting an extension of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium adopted by the City Council in March, and could get more time to pay back rent, if leaders agree to the changes on Tuesday.

The ban approved in March protected residents from evictions if they were economically impacted by the closures caused by the pandemic. They could skip payments for April and May but were required to start paying rent as normal starting in June. The payments for April and May were expected to be paid by the end of November.

Under the proposed extension, the moratorium would extend through the end of August and residents would have a full year to pay back any missed or partial payments made through the end of August. Adding another sixth months to the payback period means renters have until next May to makeup any missed payments.

The proposal comes as a push for rent forgiveness is gaining momentum at both the local level and presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden calling for a rent forgiveness plan during an online interview his week.

This week California legislators introduced a bill that would give renters 10 years to pay back rents while giving landlords who forgive rents equally-sized tax credits over the same span.

If the council approves the plan it would align itself with both the city and county of Los Angeles, which both have adopted or are considering similar measures to help protect renters from eviction.

The proposal is being brought forward by Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce with support from councilmembers Rex Richardson, Mary Zendejas and Roberto Uranga.

The four also co-authored the city’s initial economic relief package item that initiated the original eviction ban as well as other protections for workers in the city like requiring paid sick leave from some employers and worker retention programs.

In her memo to the mayor and the council, Pearce said that the council’s initial adoption of the moratorium was done under the premise that the pandemic may have subsided by the end of May. However, Long Beach has now extended its stay at home orders indefinitely.

“Preventing evictions is necessary not only to protect renters, but to protect all Long Beach residents from the spread of the coronavirus,” Pearce wrote.

The item also asked for anti-harassment measures to be added into an emergency ordinance that could be voted on at a special meeting on May 26. The council typically does not meet on the last Tuesday of every month.

Pearce is requesting that language be added to prevent landlords from asking tenants to use federal stimulus checks to pay rent and a section that would outline a process in which tenants could sue landlords who violate the anti-harassment language, which could result in civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

Pearce could not be reached for comment.

The council could vote Tuesday to initiate the drafting of the emergency ordinance that could be voted on before the expiration of the current moratorium on May 31.

The last moratorium was approved with unanimous support.

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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.