As Residents Get Nervous About Rent, WeHo Calls Out Its Block on Evictions

The closing of businesses because of the COVID-19 epidemic has led to a surge of layoffs of employees and the loss of work for freelancers that leaves those workers worrying about how to pay their rent.

In West Hollywood, where 78% of residents are renters, there now is a measure in place that provides some protection to renters whose income is impacted by the virus.  As part of the “urgency ordinance” that the City Council approved on March 16, there now is a temporary moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance applies to nonpayment eviction notices served or filed on or after March 16 and remains in effect for 60 days, unless extended. There will be no evictions for lack of rent if due to COVID-19 financial impact.

The following is what affected tenants must do to be covered under the ordinance:

— Notify the landlord in writing within 30 days of the rental due date of one’s inability to pay rent. Notification “in writing” includes email or text communications to a landlord or the landlord’s representative with whom the tenant has previously corresponded by email or text. Any medical or financial information provided to the landlord must be held in confidence, and only used for evaluating the tenant’s claim.  A template for a letter of notification to a landlord can be found online.

— State the ways in which one has been financially impacted. This can include:

  • Caring for himself or herself or a family member who is sick with COVID-19
  • Having been laid-off, or having a reduction in work hours, or other income reduction resulting from business closure or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19
  • Having to comply with a recommendation from a government health authority to stay home, self- quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency
  • Incurring extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Needing child care assistance because of school closures related to COVID-19

A landlord who has been notified of a tenant’s lost income and inability to pay full rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19 — and who has been provided with documentation in writing within 30 days after the date that rent is due – cannot seek to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent.  However, the ordinance does not relieve the tenant from eventually paying the rent, which will be due within six months after the expiration of the local emergency. The landlord may not charge a late fee on the rent. The ordinance is intended to be narrow and no other legal remedies available to the landlord are affected.

In a statement announcing the eviction moratorium, the City of West Hollywood also listed community organizations that can assist residents with housing issues:

Limited Rental Assistance

  • Aid for AIDS (Alliance for Housing & Healing) | (323) 656-1107 | Provides financial assistance to persons living with HIV/AIDS to pay for rent, utilities and pharmaceuticals. The Alliance for Housing and Healing Aging in Place Program provides supplemental rental assistance to all older adults living in West Hollywood who are having trouble paying their rent.
  • National Council of Jewish Women | (323) 852-7036 | NCJW provides rental assistance to West Hollywood residents no matter their gender or religion. Leave a message and your call will be returned.

Free or Low-Cost Legal Resources

  • Bet Tzedek Legal Services | (323) 549-5841 | Provides legal aid including representation in evictions court. Call for an appointment.
  • Coalition for Economic Survival (CES). Provides legal support. Email contactCES@earthlink.net. In the email provide your name, phone number, address, whether your unit is rent stabilized or not, and a short summary of the issue. A representative will call you. CES’s Weekly Tenant Rights Clinics in Plummer Park are closed until further notice
  • Eviction Defense Network | (213) 385-8112 | Represents LA County tenants facing eviction as long as they seek assistance at least one week before the trial. Fees are based on a sliding scale, but no one is turned away for lack of funds.
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association — Lawyer Referral and Info Service | (213) 243-1525 | | This referral service is a nonprofit public service that allows members of the public to find a qualified attorney and get general information about common legal issues. There is no cost to access information through the service and there is no fee to get a referral to an attorney.
  • Disability Rights California | (800) 776-5746 | This organization advocates, educates, investigates, and litigates to advance and protect the rights of Californians with disabilities.Disability Rights California |
  • Housing Rights Center | (800) 477-5977 | The mission of this group is to support and promote fair housing through education, advocacy and litigation, to the end that all persons have the opportunity to secure the housing they desire and can afford without discrimination.

Keeping Up to Date

West Hollywood’s coronavirus updates are available online. Residents can follow @wehocity on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and turn on notifications for up-to-date information regarding details.

Updates and information about the current numbers of COVID-19 cases in the United States and in Los Angeles County, the spread of the virus, severity, treatments, precautions, and other important public health information in multiple languages, can be found online. Resources are the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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Ham Shipey
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Ham Shipey

Meanwhile we still have to pay our mortgages…….and most people aren’t working.

Observer
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Observer

I hope the City places a halt on all Ellis Act evictions as, I believe, the City of Los Angeles has done.

Horatio
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Horatio

This is short sighted. The city should also halt all Ellis Act evictions during this time. Regardless of the reason, evicting a tenant for any reason during a global pandemic where most businesses in West Hollywood are feeling the impact is inhumane at best.

Rob Bergstein
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Rob Bergstein

My concern is two-fold. One, if you are a renter who normally lives paycheck to paycheck, I fear it will be difficult if not impossible to “catch up” on the past due rent once the moratorium on evictions ends. I’m hoping that Federal, State or local government officials will find a way to assist. Secondly, I fear for property owners, particularly our mom & pop/mom & mom/pop and pop small landlords who depend on the rent to pay their mortgages. While there are some moratoriums on some mortgages, not all are covered and again, how are the property owners to… Read more »