Coronavirus: For Many, Rent Is Due April 1. Here’s What You Need to Do If You Can’t Pay.

The first of the month means rent is due for many Ventura County residents. But those who can’t pay rent because of the coronavirus can’t be evicted, due to a combination of a statewide eviction moratorium and local ordinances. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in mid-March that authorized local governments to halt evictions but came short of stopping evictions statewide. Over 80 cities and counties passed eviction moratoriums, including most Ventura County cities and Ventura County.

After receiving some pushback for not enacting a statewide eviction ban, Newsom issued a second executive order on March 27, which puts a 60-day halt on residential evictions due to nonpayment of rent for coronavirus-related reasons. Under the order, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing that they need to delay some or all of their rent payment within seven days of the date the rent was due.

The order doesn’t prevent cities from enacting their own ordinances, but does provide protections for cities that haven’t enacted a moratorium. In Ventura County, Port Hueneme is not enacting its own ordinance, so tenants should follow the statewide ordinance. 

“It does not preempt any local ordinances that go deeper or farther, but it is an overlay for the entire state of California,” Newsom said at a press conference while introducing the statewide eviction moratorium.

State vs. Local Ordinances 

The statewide ordinance still caused some confusion for local governments that were in the process of enacting eviction moratoriums, like Ventura County. The Board of Supervisors directed managers to prepare a temporary prohibition on evictions related to nonpayment of rent for virus-related reasons in unincorporated areas of the county on March 24, and approved the policy on March 31.

At the March 31 meeting, Supervisor Steve Bennett asked how the statewide order would interact with local implementation. Michael Walker, chief assistant county counsel, explained that local governments can still provide additional protections. 

“[The governor’s order] really doesn’t stop any unlawful detainer process, it just gives the tenant 60 more days to deal with it,” said Walker. “It provides really limited protection, the proposed ordinance before the board actually stops the eviction process and will give tenants more time to come up with the money that they don’t have now to be able to pay the rent.”

Under the county’s ordinance, tenants in unincorporated parts of the county must notify their landlord that they cannot pay rent due to the coronavirus within 30 days of their rent’s due date. Several other Ventura County cities have a 30-day deadline: OxnardCamarilloSimi ValleyMoorparkThousand OaksFillmore and Santa Paula. 

Reasons for nonpayment of rent can include layoffs or a reduction in work hours, medical expenses or childcare costs related to the coronavirus. Tenants must notify their landlord in writing, and must provide documentation of the lost income or additional expenses. In most cases, “in writing” includes email or text messages. 

The ordinances don’t relieve tenants from paying rent, and in many cities they have until six months after the local emergency has ended to repay their back due rent. 

Ventura Moratorium Includes More Protection

In Ventura, the moratorium also prevents no-fault evictions that aren’t related to the coronavirus.

“The motivation behind that is to ensure there’s no sort of housing displacement,” said Megan Lorenzen, assistant city attorney for the city of Ventura. Lorenzen added that housing displacement could cause additional public health impacts. 

While Lorenzen says she hasn’t seen no-fault evictions included in other eviction ordinances in the county, the provision was modeled after Santa Monica and Pasadena, which included no-fault evictions. Additionally, about 75 percent of the eviction moratoriums in other cities that Ventura analyzed included protections from no-fault evictions. 

In Ventura, the deadlines for residential tenants are currently based off the governor’s order, so tenants must notify their landlord within seven days after the date rent is due. However, the City Council asked staff to look into potentially extending that timeline. 

“The governor’s eviction moratorium applies to residential tenants and it extends the deadline for tenants to respond to any eviction proceedings in court by 60 days, which gives residential tenants an extra 60 days to remain in their units,” said Lorenzen. “The city’s moratorium also creates an affirmative defense for residential tenants should proceedings move forward, so they can cite to the city’s ordinance, in addition to those protections it also prohibits no-fault evictions during the local emergency, and extends protections to commercial tenants.”

The governor’s order only applies to residential tenants, but Ventura is among a number of local cities that extended protections to commercial tenants.  Thousand Oaks initially only protected residential tenants, but expanded protections for commercial tenants on March 25.

Camarillo, Oxnard, Moorpark, Fillmore, Simi Valley  and Santa Paula also offer provisions for commercial tenants, while Ojai’s ordinance only applies to residential tenants. 

Source: VC Star article from April 1, 2020