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Santa Monica Further Strengthens Tenant Protections During Coronavirus Emergency

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica, CA 90405
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By Jorge Casuso

April 8, 2020 -- Santa Monica on Wednesday expanded tenant protections during the coronavirus emergency and hiked the maximum fine for landlords who violate the City's tenant harassment ordinance.

The latest order issued by City Manager Rick Cole extends the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions for non-payment of rent to May 31, a deadline that could be extended.

The order also requires landlords to notify their tenants of the moratorium, which bars the eviction of tenants who show they are unable to pay rent "due to financial impacts related to COVID-19."

While the order does not excuse the past rent accrued, it allows tenants six months after the end of the emergency to pay it back.

Among the new provisions, a landlord cannot evict residential tenants:

  • For the presence of unauthorized occupants or their pets" unless it "substantially endangers" the health of others near the premises;

  • In any no-fault eviction matters," expanding the original order that only applied when a member of the household was "sick, in isolation, sheltering at home, or under quarantine," and

  • For refusing entry into a unit, unless the landlord seeks to repair a condition that "substantially endangers or impairs the health or safety" of the tenant or others near the premises.

Landlords who enter a unit must "ensure that appropriate social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation measures are taken during the entry," according to the order.

In addition, the order bars landlords from removing units from the rental market under the 1985 Ellis Act, which allows the owners of rent-controlled apartments in California to go out of the rental business.

It also extends the period of time before a tenancy is terminated in units that have already been removed under the State law.

Under the order, landlords who violate the City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance during the moratorium are subject to a maximum fine of $15,000, up from $10,000.

“The City has strengthened its eviction moratorium to ensure that our community members -- both tenants and businesses -- can stay in their homes, restaurants, shops, and offices during this emergency period, even if they are temporarily unable to pay rent,” Cole said.

“This public health crisis will end at some point, but the financial impacts will continue to create anxieties for our residents and businesses, tenants as well as landlords.

"We are mindful of our duty to balance the needs of everyone, but in the end our job is to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of the public, and to minimize the devastating impacts of COVID-19 to our community as a whole.

"This eviction moratorium will help us get through this crisis,” said Cole, who also serves as the City’s Director of Emergency Services.

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