Costa Mesa moved one step closer to adopting an ordinance banning landlords from evicting resident and commercial tenants impacted by the economic fallout of the Coronavirus at this week’s city council meeting.

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All council members attended the meeting telephonically where they voted 5-2 on the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit evictions during the pandemic. Councilmembers Allan Mansoor and Sandra Genis dissented.

Several cities in the county including Costa Mesa have already adopted emergency ordinances to ban evictions during the pandemic.

Critics say a ban on evictions will pull the rug out from under mom and pop landlords, some who are senior citizens and depend on the rent as a form of income, in order to give a lifeline to renters.

“It’s easy to be generous at someone else’s expense. We’re taking from one to give to another,” Genis said at the meeting. “We have landlords who scrimped and saved for years and years and this is their retirement plan, their only retirement plan.”

She added that the ordinance would cause a massive asset transfer.

However, proponents say the ban would bring much needed relief to renters hit hard by business closures intended to slow the spread of the virus that can’t pay the rent on time.

“We’re not ripping food from anyone’s mouth. We’re not doing a massive asset transfer,” said Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens at the meeting.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent homelessness, and prevent businesses that have complied with the government order to keep our community safe and healthy and prevent sickness and deaths from losing their business and from being on the streets.”

Stephens also said that the ordinance is consistent with the direction of the governor and that it would be irresponsible not to implement such a ban.

Councilwoman Andrea Marr said the governor has taken steps to work with banks and mortgage companies to defer people’s mortgages. The city is encouraging landlords to contact their mortgage companies and explore relief options.

“The idea that now all those people have to single handedly come up with mortgages is simply not true in a lot of cases. I think this is absolutely the compassionate thing to do. As we were reminded 60 percent of the population rents,” Marr said

Mansoor said there are always unintended consequences to government action.

“We all want to be compassionate, but I don’t think it’s fair to the smaller mom and pop landlords, I think it’s best if they work it out with their tenants themselves and without too much interference,” Mansoor said.

Tenants would have to prove that they have a decreased income or increased medical expenses caused by the pandemic in order to take advantage of the ordinance. The ordinance would last the extent of the State of Emergency issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom including any extensions.

On March 27, Newsom issued an executive order establishing a statewide moratorium on residential evictions, banning law enforcement and the courts from enforcing eviction through the month of May.

Under Newsom’s executive order, tenants must inform their landlords in writing that they can’t pay the rent because of the virus through writing within 7 days after the rent is due.

Under Costa Mesa’s Ordinance, renters would have to inform their landlords in writing that the within 30 days after the rent is due. Forms in English and Spanish are available for tenants to fill out who seek to take advantage of the moratorium on evictions on the city’s website.

Renters will still be expected to pay the rent they owe and will have up to four months after Newsom’s state of emergency executive order is lifted to pay back rent without fees or penalties.

“We’re making sure that a lot of our families and residents can participate in the eviction moratorium for both the commercial sector and the residential sector and so that we can provide a safety net for families in need during this time,” said Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, Costa Mesa’s City Manager.

“Landlords are encouraged to reach out to their tenants as well proactively, to open a dialogue regarding rental issues during these difficult times.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam

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