Eviction moratoriums can only go so far
Featured in the Long Beach Press Telegram:
Moratoriums set up during the pandemic may sound tough. But without a freeze on judicial processing of evictions, they are limited, advocates say.
With the state’s Judicial Council deciding this week to lift a statewide eviction ban on Sept. 1, Los Angeles County residents worried about paying their own rents at the end of the month.
How can the state essentially unfreeze eviction cases, which it pledged to do by Sept. 1, while local “moratoriums” such as L.A. County’s continue?
In fact, the county’s moratorium has been extended until Sept. 30, while the city of L.A.’s renter protections exist through the duration of the pandemic emergency.
But they can only do so much.
Housing advocates and officials note that the “moratoriums” enacted during the pandemic by local city councils and the Board of Supervisors, in effect, provide only a layer of defense for a tenant. Many tenants are unaware of their legal rights, and may never get to a court where they can argue against their landlord, with the legal weight of the moratoriums to back them up.
Moratoriums don’t prevent landlords from filing a complaint with the courts against a renter for non-payment. They don’t prevent a landlord from issuing notices to terminate. And without the statewide Judicial Council’s emergency rules that froze the ability for judges to issue a summons and process eviction suits filed during the pandemic, the local moratoriums will lose their teeth.
“The moratoriums, they’ve been named so poorly,” said Matthis Chiroux, attorney at BASTA, Inc., a Long Beach legal defense firm specializing in tenant’s rights and housing in Los Angeles County. “It’s a terrible misnomer.”
As it stands, evictions are already happening.
According to data acquired from sheriff’s departments from across the state by CalMatters, 1,600 California households have been evicted since Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide state of emergency March 4, according to data the publication mined from more than 40 California sheriffs’ departments. Nearly a third of those evictions took place after Newsom’s March 19 shelter-in-place order, and more than 400 since Newsom issued a self-described March 27 “eviction moratorium.”
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