Millions of workers have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Homeowners are faced with foreclosure and countless tenants are on the verge of eviction. However, Los Angeles County has hosted a series of conferences to bring awareness to various resources that can help pay your rent on-time and prevent you from losing your home.
On Monday, December 7, 2020—The third conference hosted by LA County officials explained the beneficial services and resources that are available for people facing housing insecurity. LA County officials included: Chief of Housing & Tenant Protections for the LA County DCBA—Dana Pratt, deputy Director of the LA County DCBA—Azusena Favela, chief of Mediation & Counseling—Maritza Gutierrez, and Acting Executive Director of LA County Development Authority—Emilio Salas.
The LA County Housing & Tenant Protection Division is a department dedicated to protecting tenants from unlawful evictions. With more than half of the county paying a much higher percentage of earned income into housing related expenses, LA County is ranked as one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the nation.
According to Dana Pratt, chief of Housing & Tenant Protections, “There was a recent study by UCLA called, ‘UD DAY,’ which estimated that at least 365,000 rental households do not have an adult that is either employed or has sufficient replacement income to pay rent.”
Two considerable programs tenants should know about are LA County’s Temporary Eviction Moratorium and Stay Housed LA.
LA County’s Temporary Eviction Moratorium placed a countywide ban on evictions for residential and commercial tenants, as well as mobile-home spaces. Under the Moratorium, renters cannot be evicted for COVID-19 related non-payments, minor nuisances, or unauthorized occupants or pets—if related to COVID-19.
However, the Moratorium is set to end January 31, 2021; meaning that, unless repealed or extended by the LA County Board of Supervisors, tenants will be given 6-to-12 months to pay the rent that was originally due!
Stay Housed LA is a newly implemented program that connects renters with useful information about their rights. Stay Housed LA is partnered with LA County to provide workshops for residents who need legal assistance, and emergency support for tenants in need. Pratt stated, “Stay Housed LA will be the first line of defense for the first tsunami of evictions that we expect to see once these protections start to lift.”
Acting Executive Director of LA County Development Authority Emilio Salas said, “We focused on the economically disadvantaged communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. All the communities that have seen a disproportionate impact from COVID-19 are the focus of our relief efforts.”
The LA County Development Authority Board formed programs like the Emergency Relief Program and Project Room Key.
The Emergency Relief Program is a temporary rent subsidy program for tenants in LA County who are unable to pay their rent due the pandemic. The program allocates $103 million to renters impacted by the COVID-19 government money that does not need to be repaid, and it is anticipated to assist 50,000 Los Angeles households.
Project Room Key is a collaborative program to secure hotel and motel rooms for people experiencing homelessness. The idea behind the program is to not only protect high-risk individuals, but to also prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities and control hospitals’ capacities.
For property owners experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19, owners should consider a Forbearance Plan/Agreement, which is an agreement made between mortgage lender and delinquent borrower. The plan gives the borrower a right to pause mortgage payments up to 12 months depending on each individual’s qualifications.
Deputy Director of the LA County DCBA Azusena Favela, said “We have heard from constituents that [lenders] may not necessarily offer these options upfront. So, when a property owner calls for the relief, they want to make sure that they are stating that it is COVID-19 related. That seems to be the keyword servicers are looking for.”
Like the Stay Housed LA program, the County’s Foreclosure Prevention Unit has a team of counselors that can help navigate homeowners/borrowers through the process. Connecting them with a team of experienced housing counselors and making sure they get suitable information and resources.
Favela states, “Desperation may set it, but I encourage property owners that before they make a major decision on selling their property, connect with one of our counselors to make sure that they understand all of the available options before they make a decision.”
LA County also offers Mediation & Counseling Services, which is a voluntary confidential operation where an unbiased third party facilitates tenant-landlord dialogue; in theory, creating a civil communication for each party at no cost. Prior to the pandemic, this operation proved a 79% resolution rate, resolving repair issues, noise complaints, etc.
If you believe that you may qualify for some of these circumstances mentioned, contact lacountyhelpcenter.org for a list of all available resources, and take advantage of the resources available before these protections no longer apply.