Evictions blocked through September as City Council extends moratorium

Renters affected by COVID-19 will be shielded from eviction until at least the end of September in Long Beach after the City Council voted unanimously to extend its current moratorium for a second time since the pandemic largely closed down the local economy.

The original moratorium was adopted in March, and the moratorium will now cover eviction notices issued between March 4 and Sept. 30. The extension will not impact the date at which any missed or partial payments are due to landlords. They must still be paid by the end of July 2021.

The council had originally planned to possibly extend the moratorium to run through the end of August, but they decided to extended it to the end of September. Several council members said that housing stability was not something that could be addressed on a monthly basis.

“I don’t think we need to come back and re-litigate this every three weeks,” said Councilman Rex Richardson.

The growing uncertainty of the economy, the fast pace at which new coronavirus rules are being handed down from the state and the limited number of council meetings per month were all factors in the longer extension.

Part of the issue is that the council only meets three times a month on average and typically has the last Tuesday of the month off, which robs it of an additional meeting where it could vote on time-sensitive issues.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo proposed the council look at augmenting the structure of its meetings by bouncing a mid-month meeting to the last week so that it could handle issues like the eviction moratorium closer to the end of the month.

Earlier this month, the city had expressed interest in aligning itself with the Los Angeles County eviction moratorium, which largely resembles the one in place in Long Beach, but the council opted not to go that route as there were intricacies worked into its local ordinance that could have been lost.

“I’m concerned that anything we fall into with the county wouldn’t take into consideration anything we have discussed as a city,” said Councilwoman Suzie Price, one of the cosponsors of the extension.

Price was referencing carveouts that the city had included in its original ordinance that excluded some commercial properties at the port and airport as well as some in the city’s Tidelands Area.

Tuesday’s vote, however, amended the ordinance retroactively to include tenancies in the Tidelands Area that had inadvertently fallen through a legislative loophole where tenants of master-lease holders were left with no way to defer their rents under the moratorium.

The city attorney’s office reiterated that tenants, both residential and commercial, still need to show proof that they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 to take advantage of the moratorium’s rent deferral option.

“Tenants cannot just defer rent willy nilly,” said Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony.

Under the revised moratorium, rents due between April and September can now be deferred but the balance of the owed rent would be due by the end of July 2021.

The council has anguished over the prospect of a large amount of tenants owing a balloon payment in the thousands of dollars next year, even exploring a mandated payment program last month.

On Tuesday, working off a recommendation from Councilman Daryl Supernaw, the council formally asked for correspondence to be sent to Congress to ask for mortgage relief for property owners who have lost out on revenue as renters have been unable to pay any or all of their rents.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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