Cities across Orange County are considering temporary bans on evictions related to coronavirus.
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Santa Ana passed a resolution banning any evictions due to coronavirus complications through the end of May last week, and Irvine is considering a similar ban.
Under the bans, tenants are allowed to fight evictions if they or a family member are infected, or if they’ve been laid off or forced to leave work due to the virus.
Small business owners can also fight to hold onto their storefronts if they were forced to close their stores under the recent order from Gov. Newsom to stay home.
Tenants still have to pay back the rent after they return to work, but city manager Kristine Ridge says that the measure will help hundreds of residents hang onto their homes through the coming months.
“So many people are being laid off and it’s created a financial hardship,” Ridge said. “I believe we’ve got a lot of challenges coming down the road. I think we did the right thing by doing it and it’s a relief that our community.”
Irvine is considering a similar resolution at their upcoming council meeting, but the move may be turned into an ordinance that would set it as a law, according to Councilwoman Farrah Khan, one of the resolution’s sponsors.
The resolution states that the city has reached out to the Irvine Company and FivePoint Holdings, the two largest landowners in the city, and they have agreed to halt evictions over the coming weeks, but Khan said that there are still other renters to take into account.
“We have thousands of individual landlords, this has to apply to everyone across the board,” Khan said. “I’ve been reached by a countless amount of people who are genuinely concerned.”
City officials have made it clear that the resolutions are intended only for residents who cannot pay rent due to the coronavirus shutdown.
“If you’re still earning an income, you’re going to be fine. There are steps that are involved, you have to show why you’re not able to pay your rent,” Khan said. “We want to make sure no one is taking advantage of this, we want to partner with our landlords and hope they do the right thing, but we want to make sure our community feels safe.”
The California Apartments Association, an organization that represents landlords and apartment developers, says that it is working with local governments to tailor the resolutions so that landlords will not be negatively affected in the months ahead, but encourages its members to “act with compassion” regardless of the laws in place and work with their tenants for payment plans.
According to some online postings, landlords in Santa Ana are still urging renters to pay, with one landlord reportedly placing letters on the doors of residents advising them that Gov. Newsom’s order did not impact evictions, and that tenants should file for unemployment or sick pay if they could not pay rent.
Yet due to the closure of county courts, it is unlikely that any evictions in the county could move forward in the near future.
To evict a tenant in California, landlords have to give them a notice to move out. That can stretch out an eviction anywhere from three days to several weeks.
If at that point, a landlord still wants to evict the tenant, they have to go to court.
Currently, the county’s courts are in limbo as officials argue whether or not they can remain open amid a statewide shutdown.
When a tenant refuses to move out, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department handles the eviction process. But the sheriff’s civil operations office that handles evictions is closed through the end of the month, and that reopening date could be extended according to the sheriff’s website.
“If they have to go to court because they’re in violation of their lease, the courts aren’t going to be functioning. I don’t know if the courts will be still working to get these reports coming in,” said Irvine Mayor Christina Shea.
“It’s going to be problematic,” Shea added, “and for some time it will be difficult to evict anybody.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.