ENCINITAS – Last week, the city of Encinitas established a temporary moratorium on evictions due to the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic – joining a handful of other cities in San Diego choosing to echo the state’s mandate.
Days after issuing a shelter in place order for all Californians in late March, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a ban on evictions for the time being. The mandate specifically protects residential tenants from eviction due to the nonpayment of rent.
The city’s ordinance ups the level of protection, applying the moratorium to commercial tenants as well.
“(Small businesses) are critically important, they need our support,” said Encinitas Councilmember Joe Mosca, during the council’s April 1 virtual meeting. “The last thing we want to see when everything gets started again is that these small businesses have closed down.”
The moratorium will apply through May 31, 2020, after which tenants will have six months to pay back the rent from the months they did not pay. Landlords cannot charge late fees for the inability to pay rent during this approximately two-month-long period, or for longer, if the local emergency continues.
The ordinance applies to those who are having financial difficulties in the face of this crisis, which is defined in the ordinance as having a “substantial decrease in household income for a residential tenant, or in business income for a commercial tenant, due to business closure, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, layoffs, or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses.”
The ordinance will also apply to residents who are caring for sick relatives or children who are out of school due to the pandemic.
A tenant who isn’t able to pay rent would have to provide notice to the landlord either on or before the day rent is due, according to the ordinance. Within two weeks of that date, they would have to provide documentation illustrating their inability to pay rent.
The virtual meeting saw several residents writing in, mostly to express their support. Resident Bob Kent said the ordinance will help keep residents in their homes during the outbreak.
“The current coronavirus outbreak shines a bright light on the importance of keeping people in their homes for both their economic security and for our community’s public health as a whole by containing this virus,” he wrote.
Mike McSweeney, a representative with the Building Industry Association of San Diego, requested the council consider adding to the ordinance that if tenants decide to move out, all rent should be due at the time of move out. The stipulation was added to the ordinance.
The ordinance would apply to rent due March 27 or later. Due to the ordinance being passed on the first day of the month, the council decided to extend the date of providing notice to landlords until April 7 for this month only.
The county and the city of San Diego have passed similar ordinances thus far, as well as Oceanside in the North County area.
Encinitas has also taken steps to ensure its homeless population is sheltered during this time. On March 18, the city partnered with the Community Resource Center to implement a temporary emergency shelter motel voucher program. The center has provided 65 motel vouchers, allowing for the shelter of 83 individuals, according to the city’s staff report.
The city is allocating $90,000 every two weeks to this program, and seeking reimbursement for those funds at both the state and federal level. At the April 1 meeting, the city opted to extend their partnership with the local organization for an additional 30 days.