One week before they were set to expire, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday extended by two months its tenant protections against eviction for those impacted by COVID-19, while also approving the establishment of a $45 million “relief fund” for small landlords who have been unable to collect rent from some tenants.

Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis originally asked their colleagues to extend the tenant protections through June. That extension met with opposition on the board, most notably from board chair Janice Hahn, who said she would not support such a long extension.

Hahn indicated she would be supportive of a shorter time frame, leading to the March 31 compromise.

Horvath said the extension was essential to assist renters who continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the magnitude of people still getting sick, still out of work, and continuing to die from this emergency, it is essential that we keep folks cared for in stable housing,” she said in a statement following the vote. “Continued and expanded protections are critical for both renters and property owners, and the cost and consequences of doing nothing will be dire. We simply cannot afford to abandon our most vulnerable residents who are facing down these compounded crises.”

The extension was met with anger from property owners who addressed the board, many criticizing members for refusing to end tenant protections that landlords claim has led some renters to simply stop paying rent, in some cases for years, without any financial assistance being provided to owners.

That concern prompted Supervisor Kathryn Barger to introduce an amending motion to establish a $45 million relief fund for small property owners.

“In some cases, extending renter protections has had a negative impact on property owners, and we can’t continue extending emergency tenant protections at their expense,” Barger said in a statement. “I’ve heard loud and clear from my constituents who are property owners who are struggling to meet their own utility, mortgage, and property insurance payments. They aren’t exempt from meeting their financial responsibilities, so it’s high time we offer small property owners relief as well. We can’t turn our backs on them.”

The board had previously instructed the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to design an assistance program for small landlords, and the agency initially recommended a $5 million program. The motion from Barger and Supervisor Holly Mitchell expands that program to $45 million, providing assistance of up to $30,000 per rental unit.

Under the move, property owners who receive the relief funds must agree not to evict tenants for non-payment of rent.

Solis said she was disappointed the board did not support an extension through June, but said even the shorter term relief is welcome.

“We all recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically disrupted our families and economy while disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable. To that end, we must lead with compassion to prevent people from falling into homelessness,” she said.

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