At its April 8 meeting the Escondido City Council adopted a measure that temporary suspends evictions for commercial and residential tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to the coronavirus.
City Attorney Michael McGuinness, presenting a report on the city’s options to the council, remarked, “This is clearly an issue on the minds of many of our residents.”
McGuinness said the city has the power to take such an action due to City Manager Jeff Epp’s March declared local emergency on March 18 and the city’s police powers under such a declaration. Such an action, related to the health and welfare of community members may be taken to protect life and property, but if there is a “taking” involved under the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment, there would need to be compensation paid.
What that means in practical terms is that while the city can temporarily ban evictions that result from tenants not having enough money to pay rent during the coronavirus that it can only postpone that rent for a time—it can’t make the debt go away. It must still be paid eventually. “It does not relieve tenants of the obligation to pay the rent,” emphasized the City Attorney.
Due to the emergency in effect it would be illegal for a landlord to evict someone in order to rent it to someone else at a higher rent.
Under Governor Gavin Newsom’s emergency executive order the Courts are currently not setting trial dates for carrying out eviction orders and won’t for 60 days. The suspension is only good until May 31 or until the governor lifts the emergency.
The ordinance is good from March 16, 2020, but only if the tenant has provided notice to the landlord that the failure to pay the rent is related to COVID-19 and provides documentation. It does not protect a tenant who doesn’t provide documentation, or whose reasons for not paying the rent are unrelated to the outbreak.
Legitimate causes of withholding rent might be a decrease in household income, medical expense and stay-at-home orders.
According to one study a historic number of Americans are unable to afford their rent and mortgage payments in April. Across the U.S. 13% of renters paid only part of their April rent bill, while another 12% made no payment at all. A similar percentage of homeowners were delinquent on their mortgage obligations.
1 in nine renters had their landlord or management company proactively lower their April rent.
You can find the full text of the eviction ordinance here: