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LA lawmakers are considering protections for renters that include a ban on evictions and utility shut-offs. | Getty Images

“You will not lose your housing during this crisis because you can’t make the rent”

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Sunday that he has signed an order halting residential evictions in the city of Los Angeles.

“You can be rest assured that you will not lose your housing during this crisis because you can’t make the rent,” Garcetti said, referring to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The eviction moratorium will apply to tenants who are able to show “an inability to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It’s part of a long list of new guidelines and efforts that Garcetti laid out in a public address to stem the spread of virus—and curb the economic impacts already being felt by many workers.

Garcetti also noted that the city attorney’s office is looking into whether the city could legally prevent commercial evictions for small businesses and restaurants. Garcetti has signed an order that will close bars and nightclubs, and have restaurants closed for dining but open for delivery, take-out, and drive-through orders.

“I want to stress that I have not taken these steps lightly,” he said. “To some it may feel wrong… [but] we need to take these steps to protect our city right now.”

The restrictions go into effect at midnight and will be in effect through March 31, unless they are rescinded or extended, Garcetti said.

Garcetti has also said that “rents can be deferred.” But details on how that and the moratorium will work or be enforced were not mentioned in the announcement. The mayor’s office and the city’s housing and community investment department have not responded to requests for more information.

As the city encourages people to stay home, there has been increasing attention on populations who do not have a permanent home and their difficulties following these directives.

On Saturday, a group of homeless families and individuals “reclaimed” a Caltrans-owned home in El Sereno that was vacated for the now abandoned 710 extension project.

“I don’t feel safe being homeless during this health crisis, and I need a place of my own to protect my children from the virus,” Martha Escudero, one of the women who moved into the empty home, said in a statement. “I’m scared for everyone who is one paycheck away from my situation, who may lose their jobs and then their housing because of the virus.”

The group calls itself Reclaiming Our Homes. Its members are calling for major investments in public housing and would like to see vacant housing used immediately to give people without homes a place to safely wait out the public health emergency.

In the city of Santa Monica, landlords have been barred from evicting tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19, including those who have been laid off or lost work hours due to the outbreak.

Last week, several local lawmakers in the city of Los Angeles were working on a series of emergency proposals that sound similar to the moratorium announced by the mayor today. They planned to introduce them on Tuesday, at the next meeting of the Los Angeles City Council, which is operating on a limited schedule.

“With so many folks living paycheck to paycheck, or relying on tips or gig work to pay their bills, we know there will be extra stress placed on Angelenos that many simply can’t afford,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Herb Wesson said Thursday.

Wesson said that his plan could also extend to small businesses that face eviction due to unpaid commercial leases, and could also include assistance for mom-and-pop landlords. Additionally, it could order the city attorney to come up with a strategy for working with banks and lenders “to halt mortgage payments for individuals who have suffered severe loss of wages due to the spread of COVID-19.”

Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, says he’s worried about renters being able to get access to information about their rights right now. So many organizations run walk-in clinics, or have first-come, first-served policies that require waiting in a big room with others.

Gross says he’s meeting with his staff and the attorneys that offer services to their clients to figure out how they are going to move forward—without compromising anyone’s health.

The city of LA’s housing and community investment department, which handles housing inspections and enforces the city’s rent stabilization ordinance, has closed its walk-in counters. But residents can call (866) 557- RENT or (866) 557-7368 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or submit questions online.

Source: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CurbedLA