LA City Legislation

March 26

Letter to City Council regarding the Eviction Moratorium 3/26

March 22

HOUSING STABILITY

  • Rent forgiveness and mortgage suspension. Across the country, financial institutions are already increasingly suspending mortgage payments. To the maximum extent possible, the City should work with the State and financial institutions to continue suspending mortgage payments for homeowners and landlords, and pursue options to forgive rent obligations for the duration of the crisis, including a recovery period after the state of emergency is lifted.  Economic relief and displacement protections should not be limited to property owners – the City must also prioritize the tenants who are at grave risk of losing their homes with rent forgiveness. In addition to the suspension of mortgage payments, the impacts of rent forgiveness may also be offset in some cases by emergency financial assistance predicated on the landlord’s compliance with all health, safety, and habitability laws (described below).
  • Moratorium on evictions. The City moved to adopt some restrictions on eviction proceedings last week, but the proposed ordinance does not go nearly far enough in the face of this crisis. The City must enact a sweeping moratorium against the eviction of any tenant in Los Angeles.  This moratorium must have universal application. Requiring proof of a direct causal effect of COVID-19 may exclude individuals indirectly affected by the secondary and tertiary economic effects of the health crisis. For instance, workers who cannot find jobs due to the economic downturn may not be able to prove a causal connection—yet that does not change the fact that they cannot afford to pay their rent. In addition, it is crucial that the City draft the moratorium broadly, in order to prevent landlords from filing creative eviction lawsuits to get around it. (An analogous situation is that it is already common for landlords to file meritless cases based on false allegations of nuisance or breach of lease, in order to charge market rates at rent-stabilized apartments.) Any unlawful detainer case forces tenants to appear in court, which contravenes the Governor’s and the Mayor’s shelter at home policy. Furthermore, we can expect that many tenants who are evicted will either become homeless, or crowd into relatives’ homes—both scenarios that will make it easier for the virus to spread. To achieve the crucial objectives of preventing homelessness and slowing COVID-19, the eviction moratorium must be strengthened to include the following:
    • The moratorium should cover all evictions, not just those based on nonpayment of rent, and with no requirement to prove a causal connection to COVID-19. This includes, but is not limited to, evictions based on failure to pay rent; breach of lease covenants; unauthorized occupants and/or pets; nuisance (such as noise caused by children who are now at home after the closure of their schools); and no-fault evictions.
    • The moratorium must address both the filing of cases, and create legal defenses:
      • Landlords must be barred from filing any and all unlawful detainer cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court system during and for a period following the moratorium.
      • Service by the landlord of any eviction notice during the moratorium period, as well as the filing of any unlawful detainer case during the moratorium period, must each be complete defenses to an unlawful detainer case.
    • In the event that unpaid rent is not forgiven, tenants must have a minimum of 24 months from the end of the emergency to make late rent payments.
    • Any unpaid rent that is not forgiven will be transformed into consumer debt which can be collected via the civil process, not through the unlawful detainer process.

Rent Freeze. The City took very little action to ease rent burden or prevent rent gouging for LA’s tenant community at last week’s meeting. As of now, the City is simply banning the charging of late fees for the duration of the crisis. But it is becoming increasingly clear that a broad swath of workers is suffering economically from the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of displacement and overcrowding are more dire than ever. With the City’s high pre-existing levels of rent burden, the relatively large rent increases allowed under the rent stabilization ordinance and the assessment of late fees can jeopardize many families’ housing. To promote housing stability, the City should:

  • Immediately freeze rents at their March 4, 2020 rates to protect tenants during this public health crisis, including a period of time after the state of emergency has been lifted,  and allow the City Council to consider permanent adjustments to LARSO’s annual allowable increase.
    • Legislate that a landlord’s increasing rent during this time, or requiring, as a way to avoid the rent freeze or raise the rent, that a tenant sign a new lease, shall each be a complete defense to any unlawful detainer case the landlord files thereafter regarding this tenancy.
    • Establish clear and effective enforcement procedures to ensure that landlords are complying with the rent freeze provisions and tenants are aware of and able to exercise their rights under the rent freeze.
    • Fully fund tenant outreach and education, and establish a tenant hotline to report violations of the eviction moratorium, rent forgiveness or rent freeze.
    • The City should require an extension of all expiring leases for at least six months, instead of the just three month period the City Council is currently contemplating in their eviction moratorium motion. Failure to extend a lease in this manner shall be a complete defense to an unlawful detainer case.
    • To the extent possible, HCID should extend deed-recorded rent restrictions for the duration of the eviction moratorium.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance. To the extent that unpaid rent is not forgiven, ensure that rental assistance is available after the eviction moratorium expires. An emergency rental assistance program should be created to minimize the burden on low-income tenants and is predicated on the landlord’s compliance with all health, safety, and habitability laws.
  • Foreclosure Protections for Tenants. The City should strengthen the protections in LAMC § 49.42 to ensure that the City is doing everything in its power to protect tenants in properties subject to foreclosure.
  • Homeowner Assistance. Protect low-income homeowners at risk of default and financial distress due to the spread of COVID-19 through assistance programs that achieve the following:
    • Work with the State and financial institutions to continue suspending mortgage payments for homeowners and landlords, and pursue options to forgive rent obligations for any tenant in the home for the duration of the crisis, including a recovery period after the state of emergency is lifted.
    • Provide resources to homeowners to determine whether they are eligible for a suspension on mortgage payments.
    • Establish a mortgage assistance fund for all low-income homeowners who are not eligible for mortgage suspension.
    • Establish a moratorium on trustee’s sales, recordation of notices of default, and evictions of people who are post-trustee’s sale of their homes, but have yet to move out.
    • Work with State and County agencies to suspend collection from low-income homeowners of property tax assessments made through the Property Assessed Clean Energy” (PACE) loans and other home improvement and clean energy loan programs.
  • Enforcement and Outreach. HCID, in coordination with the City Attorney, shall impose penalties if landlords do not inform tenants of their rights under these provisions. Penalties for landlord noncompliance with any of these emergency restrictions should be the basis for punitive action by the City or affected tenants, with a statute of limitations sufficient to allow enforcement after the state of emergency is over. The City shall also fund outreach by community-based organizations to tenants, and provide a complaint hotline to tenants. The City shall fund sufficient staffing to ensure timely enforcement of tenants’ rights. 

March 13

Housing Stability

The City of Los Angeles expects that the COVID-19 pandemic of this hour will be exacerbated by the crisis of homelessness we already suffer. COVID-19 is poised to not only sicken our population, but to increase rates of poverty and homelessness – a dynamic that will worsen the spread and impact of the virus. Too often, individuals experiencing homelessness lack the resources they need to sanitize their surroundings, quarantine at home, and recover if they fall ill. We must act decisively to prevent this virus from causing even more Los Angeles residents to lose their housing.  Working with all appropriate city departments, other public agencies, and stakeholders, the city must do everything in its power to increase housing stability during this health crisis through the following actions:

  • Moratorium on evictions. Enact a sweeping moratorium against the eviction of any tenant in Los Angeles.  This moratorium must have universal application. Requiring proof of a direct causal effect of COVID-19 may exclude individuals indirectly affected by the secondary and tertiary economic effects of the health crisis. For instance, workers who cannot find jobs due to the economic downturn may not be able to prove a causal connection—yet that does not change the fact that they cannot afford to pay their rent. An eviction moratorium must also help contain the spread of the virus and reduce unnecessary risks by preventing mandatory court dates in eviction proceedings, which contravene the Governor’s mandate that gatherings of more than 250 be cancelled. To achieve these crucial objectives, this moratorium must be drafted to include the following: 
    • Landlords must be barred from filing unlawful detainer cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court system during and for a period following the moratorium.
    • Service by the landlord of an eviction notice during the moratorium period, as well as the filing of an unlawful detainer case during the moratorium period, shall each be complete defenses to an unlawful detainer case.
    • All unlawful detainer cases in which there is not yet a final judgment must be stayed or dismissed. Trial shall not be held, and neither a judge nor any clerk of the court shall enter judgment against any defendant, or issue any writ of execution. 
    • Execution of any judgment for plaintiff in an unlawful detainer case, regardless of when entered, shall be stayed until 180 days after the end of the moratorium. The Sheriff shall be restrained from evicting any occupant until 180 days after the end of the moratorium.
    • No tenant, at any time, shall be evicted for nonpayment of rent, late charges, or any other fees or charges accrued during the moratorium or during a period thereafter. 
  • Moratorium on utility shutoffs. Access to utilities is critical  to residents’ ability to sanitize their homes, wash their hands, and maintain their health.  The City should enact a moratorium on the shutoff of utilities for residences and businesses, whose stakeholders rely on continuing operation in order to maintain their income and their housing.
  • Rent Freeze and Ban on Late Fees. A broad swath of workers is suffering economically from the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of displacement and overcrowding are more dire than ever. With the City’s high pre-existing levels of rent burden, the relatively large rent increases allowed under the rent stabilization ordinance, and the assessment of late fees can jeopardize many families’ housing. To promote housing stability, the City should:
    • Freeze rents immediately to protect tenants during this public health crisis and allow the City Council to consider permanent adjustments to LARSO’s annual allowable increase.
    • During the period of the eviction moratorium, and for a period thereafter, prohibit landlords from charging any late fee to tenants or requiring, in order to avoid the rent freeze or raise the rent, that any tenant sign a new lease. 
    • The landlord’s charging of a late fee to a tenant, increasing rent during this time, or requiring, as a way to avoid the rent freeze or raise the rent, that a tenant sign a new lease shall each be a complete defense to any unlawful detainer case the landlord files thereafter regarding this tenancy.
    • Establish clear and effective enforcement procedures to ensure that landlords are complying with the rent freeze provisions and tenants are aware of and able to exercise their rights under the rent freeze.
    • Fully fund tenant outreach and education, and establish a tenant hotline to report violations of the eviction moratorium or rent freeze.
    • Landlords shall be required to extend all expiring leases until 120 days after the end of the eviction moratorium. Failure to extend a lease in this manner shall be a complete defense to an unlawful detainer case. 
  • Emergency Rental Assistance. Ensure that rental assistance is available after the eviction moratorium expires, minimizes burdens on low-income tenants, and is  predicated on the landlord’s compliance with all health, safety, and habitability laws. 
  • Enforcement and Outreach. HCID, in coordination with the City Attorney, shall impose penalties if landlords do not inform tenants of their rights under these provisions. The City shall also fund outreach by  community-based organizations to tenants, and provide a complaint hotline to tenants. The City shall fund sufficient staffing to ensure timely enforcement of tenants’ rights.  
  • Foreclosure Protections for Tenants. The City should strengthen the protections in LAMC § 49.42 to ensure that the City is doing everything in its power to protect tenants in properties subject to foreclosure. 
  • Homeowner Assistance. Protect low-income homeowners at risk of default and financial distress due to the spread of COVID-19 through assistance programs that achieve the following:
    • Halt mortgage payments for individuals suffering economic hardship during the spread of COVID-19.
    • Establish a mortgage assistance fund for all low-income homeowners.
    • Establish a moratorium on trustee’s sales, recordation of notices of default, and evictions of people who are post-trustee’s sale of their homes, but have yet to move out.
    • Work with State and County agencies to suspend collection  from low-income homeowners of property tax assessments made through the Property Assessed Clean Energy” (PACE) loans and other home improvement and clean energy loan programs.

PROTECTIONS FOR UNHOUSED PEOPLE

1. Immediately open vacant city, state, and county-owned buildings, vacant lots, and other public properties and provide items needed to slow/stop the spread. Make use of hotels and motel rooms for people to quarantine and to protect unhoused people who are elderly or have conditions that will make COVID-19 especially deadly.

2. Make right on LACAN’s ”Dirty Divide” demands and supply dumpsters, showers, hand washing stations, vermin abatement, laundry vouchers, soap, and water to every informal settlement in Los Angeles. Expand trash pick up and sidewalk cleanings (not sweeps).

3. Stop dismantling informal settlements and pushing residents into the shadows and away from assistance. Allow encampment residents across the City of LA to return and outfit the settlement with supplies and services needed to keep them healthy. Sweeps everywhere should be halted. 

4. Immediately suspend enforcement of LAMC 56.11 daytime “tents down” provision as long as tents allow ADA clearance and are 10 ft from operable driveways. Allowing tents to remain up and people to stay in those tents during the duration of this public health crisis allows occupants to isolate themselves as needed for public health and safety. 

5. Immediately suspend enforcement of LAMC 56.11 “60 gallon” rule. Stop the confiscation of property necessary to maintain encampment residents’ health and survival.

6. Increase GR and SNAP benefits. Moratorium on the job search requirement for GR (general relief) and SNAP benefits during this public health crisis, so the focus can be on health and quarantine instead of job searches during a time when employment is slowing.

7. Immediately implement 24/7 restroom access in parks, beaches, and government properties with unarmed attendants. The largest stock of public restrooms and handwashing stations are in public parks, beaches, and government properties and can be made immediately available.

8. STOP towing RVs and other vehicles that people are using for shelter. Vehicles that can be used by unhoused folks to provide recommended social distance should not be towed for reasons like debt collection or unpaid registration.

PROTECTIONS FOR HOSPITALITY WORKERS

PREVENTION:  HAND WASHING

Mandate that all Airport, Stadium and Hotel employers give employee an extra 15 minutes of break time every 4 hours for washing hands and sanitizing.

In hotels, housekeepers should have an affirmative reduction in workload equivalent to 30 minutes of work (typically one “room credit”), and must not be penalized if they do not complete daily room cleaning quotas, so that they are able to perform thorough cleaning and have time to frequently wash their hands.

Together, this means three legislative actions:

A. Suspend room quotas for hotel housekeepers until further notice,

B. mandate that all housekeepers be given a break after each room to wash their hands and disinfect,

C. permanently reduce room quotas by 1 credit if the room quota is normally 16 or less, and by two credits if the room quota is more than 16. 

CONTROL LAYOFFS

  • Protect workers with fair layoff and recall by seniority rights, so laid off workers are ensured a job when the crisis subsides.  See Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 4.66.10 et seq. 
  • Adopt a “just cause” provision to prevent unscrupulous managers from trumping up reasons to fire workers.  See Philadelphia Municipal Code Section 9-4700 et seq.
  • Adopt worker retention to protect workers through bankruptcy and subcontracting.  See Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 4.67.050; Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 183.00 et seq.

TRAINING:  CENTRALIZE PUBLIC HEALTH TRAINING FOR HOSPITALITY WORKERS

All housekeepers and cooks in the Airports, Stadiums and Hotels should be trained on public health by a single non-profit authority not controlled by employers.  A model is the “public housekeeping” training law adopted last year by the City of Santa Monica.  See Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 4.67.060

ENFORCE THE CITY’S SHORT TERM RENTAL LAW, STARTING WITH MULTI-UNIT BUILDINGS AND RENT CONTROLED APARTMENTS

Public safety measures in the hospitality industry are not meaningful if a significant part of our hotel units are being run through illegal, unregulated operators.  This is especially true when short-term rental businesses occupy entire buildings or multiple units in a building and take over rent controlled units, which are often in larger, denser buildings. 

PROTECTIONS FOR ALL WORKERS

WORKER AND COMMUNITY HEALTH AND SAFETY

  1. Enforce AB5 anywhere workers are being denied sick leave or access to benefits as a result of being misclassified. Presumption that all workers in the current crisis, including but not limited to all service workers, grocery, retail, drug, food and other delivery workers, and improperly classified port drivers, are employees.  
  2. Require all employers to offer universal 14 days (80 hours) of paid sick leave with the understanding that in a public health emergency all workers have immediate access to their paid sick time regardless of approval by a doctor.  Pro-actively enforce new and existing paid sick leave policies.
  3. Mandate that all employees have time to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes, and that the employer provides at its expense all necessary sanitary cleaners, including but not limited to sanitizer, disinfecting cleaning products, and protective gear (gloves, etc.) and appropriate training on their proper use.  Mandate sufficient staffing to ensure sanitary bathrooms are stocked with all necessary items to protect public health.
  4. Workers, particularly those still engaging with the public, must be trained in public health protection either by a government entity, or a non-profit authorized by a government entity not controlled by the employer.  See the Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 4.67.060.
  5. Enact and enforce anti-retaliation protections for workers taking paid sick leave or paid family leave, or who are quarantined.  No workers should be disciplined or fired for taking leave or as a result of being quarantined.

IMMEDIATE PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS

  1. To protect workers further, just cause terminations only to ensure employers do not take advantage of the crisis to unfairly fire workers. See Philadelphia Municipal Code Section 9-4700 et seq.
  2. Right of recall by seniority for workers laid off during the crisis. (See Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 4.66.10 et. seq.
  3. Worker retention in case companies go bankrupt and/or are sold during the crisis.  See Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 4.67.050; Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 183.00 et seq.
  4. Permit workers to alter their schedules to address childcare and family needs arising from the pandemic without retaliation and with good faith efforts to maintain hours.  Offer full-time hours to existing employees before hiring new staff.

PROTECTIONS FOR SCHOOLS & FAMILIES

1. Close schools proactively and immediately

2. Fund social services in the wake of the closures

3. Outline of health and safety protocols for the home.

4. Fifteen additional paid sick days per year for all workers in LA County. Additional PTO for workers w/o paid sick time.

5. Weekly disaster stipend for working parents to stay home with children.

6. All economic barriers to coronavirus testing and treatment removed.

7. Network of food and supply distribution centers, to students who need food but are not in school, to get it.

8. Free, reliable broadband access and access to electronic devices to students while at home.

9.  Debt forgiveness, suspended rent and mortgage payments, shut-off of eviction court and utility courts

10. Not penalizing schools’ funding based on attendance or missed standardized tests.

11. Systematic support for all unhoused students in LAUSD and all unhoused people.

12. Additional support for students w disabilities and medically fragile students.