Council to Take Up Urgency Ordinance Regulating Evictions

On Tuesday, the Davis City Council took up the issue of an ordinance to prevent evictions during the coronavirus pandemic, but wanted to get more weigh in from key stakeholders.

Staff is concerned that, as a result of the public health emergency, “many tenants in Davis have experienced or expect soon to experience sudden and unexpected income loss.”

They are also concerned, “Further economic impacts are anticipated in the coming weeks and months, leaving tenants vulnerable to eviction. Such impacts are also expected to be felt by the City’s commercial tenants, most of which are now required to cease (or at least substantially limit) their operations for the duration of the pandemic.”

This would avoid “unnecessary housing displacement, to protect the City’s affordable housing stock, and to prevent housed individuals from falling into homelessness.”

Among the provisions, landlords would be prohibited from evicting a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant demonstrates that the tenant is unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.

These include being sick with COVID-19, caring for a family member who is sick, being laid off or losing hours or otherwise having an income reduction resulting from business closure or other economic impacts.

The staff report notes: “During the period of local emergency declared in response to COVID-19, a residential or commercial tenant shall pay the portion of the rent that the tenant is able to pay.

Furthermore, “The tenant is not relieved of liability for the unpaid rent, which the landlord may seek after expiration of the local emergency and the tenant must pay within six months of the expiration of the local emergency.”

It would also prevent “a no-fault eviction” unless they can show it is immediately necessary due to the existence of a hazardous condition impacting tenants and/or neighbors.  Staff stipulates: “a ‘hazardous condition’ does not include the presence of individuals who have been infected by or exposed to COVID-19.”

City Attorney Inder Khalsa said that this is something that would not be enforced by city staff, but rather “it does provide additional defenses to tenants who are facing evictions.” This would be a tool used by tenants to counteract eviction proceedings.

She also noted, “The urgency of this is sort of a question mark… ultimately it is unlikely that this ordinance would come into play for weeks if not months because the courts are increasingly shutting down and they’re not hearing unlawful detainer actions.”

Mike Webb added, “(This) is really to prevent the predatory type of evictions.”

Staff noted that the ordinance has been shared with the Rental Stakeholders group for further comment.

The stakeholder group includes the California Apartment Owners Association (former Rental Housing Association of Sacramento Valley), local property managers including Boschken Properties, Lyon Property Management, Star Crossed Properties, Tandem Properties, and Zabace Property Management; The Arbors apartment complex; Legal Services of Northern California; ASUCD and a neighborhood representative from Oeste Manor.

There is no statewide ban on evictions.  Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order that allows cities and counties to stop landlords from kicking out tenants who miss their next rent payment, but it gives local governments the discretion to do so.

This has led tenants’ rights groups like the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment to decry the “total lack of leadership.”

Moreover, despite the comment from the city attorney, CalMatters was reporting on Thursday that landlords’ attorneys were continuing to file eviction lawsuits in Southern California courts.

“There’s no one person that I’m aware of, certainly in Southern California, that lost their job and couldn’t pay the March 1 rent,” CalMatter quoted landlords’ attorney Dennis Block.

He told the publication, “So unless you just want to say okay, well there’s a pandemic, let’s just start throwing money around from other people’s pockets, then that’s what you got.”

However, many courts will not even process such detainers, as the City Attorney pointed out.

City Manager Mike Webb explained on Tuesday, “We’re trying to put something forward for consideration as soon as possible… Nothing compels you to act to tonight.”

He said that the council could easily consider this on March 24, the date of the regularly scheduled council meeting, saying they could “take it up at that time.”

In general, the council was supportive of the measure, but saw the need to get feedback from ASUCD and the California Apartment Owners Association.

“We need to be really careful,” Councilmember Dan Carson said.  “Giving a chance to hear from folks who are paying close attention to these matters will only make this ordinance stronger.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida said not everyone who has to stay home is going to lose wages.

“It’s really important to protect those that are most vulnerable,” she said.  “This is an important thing to have in place.  I just want to make sure it’s as carefully crafted as it can be.”

Will Arnold said he was comfortable with the direction he senses from his colleagues, noting he would have been willing to support it at the present meeting.

“I think our city attorney is correct that most of these bills won’t come through until the end of the month, which means that the difference between March 17 and March 24 is somewhat irrelevant in this regard,” he said.

Councilmember Arnold added, “If you’re going to ask folks to shelter in place, it’s imperative that they have a place to shelter.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. PhilColeman

    Political posturing anyone?

    Stop all these silly proceedings now and somebody call to the Yolo County Sheriff. Ask him about the possibility of any resident being tossed out of their place of residence for the duration of this crisis. Set aside for now, how a shut-down civil court process would even give the Sheriff an order for eviction.

    His office is the enforcement arm of an eviction process. When the Sheriff is right now looking a “worst-case scenarios” in his at-risk jail population, the many thousands of rurally located constituents who are asking him for basic needs, the possibility of massive civil unrest, does anyone with half a brain really think the Sheriff is going to assign a precious Deputy to toss somebody out on the street. Anyone besides the City Council that is.


    1. David Greenwald

      Your point is one that was made by the city attorney on Tuesday. But you’re missing a key part of what they said – let’s say the courts are shutdown until June, you lose your job and get behind on your rent – this provision would allow you a chance to fight the eviction in July and give you time to pay back what you owe rather than pacing an eviction in July. And the governor’s directive was that local cities have to create their own ordinance.

  2. Alan Miller

    Very little said on the commercial rent side.  This is key for small business.  Fascinating article in the Palo Alto Weekly about what one large commercial landlord has done (below).  I have been saying that the economic BOOM is gonna hit when residential tenants without jobs, and commercial tenants with low or now income, hit April 1st – and landlords are going to have to be the relief valve with reduced rents, as their just won’t be the money out there to support the rent bubble anymore.

    Of course, some landlords are no better off and won’t be able to take this hit, and others who can but will hold on to the belief of forever-bubble rents, but will end up with people/businesses that just can’t pay.  This will all be repeated with a bigger BOOM when May 1st rents are due.  I suspect if businesses and jobs aren’t cranking again by June 1st, the Coronavirus will be our 2nd biggest problem, behind civil breakdown.

    Headline is: “One Palo Alto landlord gave rent breaks to mom-and-pop tenants. Will others follow suit?  McNellis Partners proposes ‘Retail Marshall Plan’ to help reeling business community”

    This is a hopeful thing, hopefully a trend.

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