Pandemic Renter Protections to End Soon

The Beverly Hills City Council is aiming for May 31 as the date to lift a ban on housing evictions and rent increases enacted in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. At its March 15 regular meeting, the Council directed city staff to draft an ordinance for Council to vote on in April.

If approved, the updated ordinance would establish the end date for the renter protections and limit how much landlords are allowed to raise rent prices moving forward. Once the eviction moratorium ends, tenants would have until May 31, 2023 to pay back rent that was unpaid due to COVID-19 hardships.

The Council has also reached consensus that it should establish a subsidy program to help renters in the city pay for pending rent increases. What remains to be determined is how the subsidy program will be rolled out.

The city has about $700,000 dollars in surplus funds previously earmarked for COVID-19 relief and aims to use these funds to help tenants meet anticipated rent hikes when the ban is lifted. The program is expected to qualify recipients based on an income threshold that is yet to be determined. It will prioritize seniors and disabled residents, as well as families with children in the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Other questions that remain on the table include how much money is to be paid monthly per renter, whether to add additional funds to the existing $700,000 and how to prioritize funding allocation based on recipient needs. The city has instructed staff to come back with more data on current demographics of renters in the city to help answer these questions.

Councilmember Julian Gold, M.D., fielded the idea of pushing forward a plan for the subsidy program now, while leaving it flexible so it can be changed depending on demand. He suggested starting by offering up to $3,000 monthly to households of four people with an annual income that is less than half of the median income in the city.

“I think we can talk this thing to death. I think we just need to do it,” Gold said.

However, a majority of the council members wanted more data before they signed off on the renter subsidy plan. Mayor Bob Wunderlich said it is important to know how many people are in specific demographic groups so the Council can allocate funds to those with the most need.

“We need to know how many people, they’re estimates, but how many people are in the various categories,” said Wunderlich. “I think it would be helpful to have the additional information because we’re going into a program, and we shouldn’t go into it blind. I want there to be a subsidy program, but we shouldn’t go into the dollar amounts blind.”

The City Council has been grappling with how to best manage the end of the renter protections since October. At that time, it looked like the ban on evictions and rent increases would be lifted on March 31, but the ban was later extended amid the winter case surge caused by the omicron variant. During a February study session, the Council reached a consensus that May 31 would be the end date.

“I think we have to stick to that date,” said Councilmember John Mirisch. “I would recommend developing a program to help people whose rents are ‘shock-increased’ which would include people like seniors who weren’t necessarily impacted by COVID.

I would like to make that as broad as possible because people are struggling.”

Under the anticipated ordinance update, landlords would be allowed to raise rents this year by an additional 3.1% for rent increases that were missed during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Starting in 2023, landlords would be able to charge up to 4.2% for rent bumps missed for 2020-2021. For annual increases missed in 2021-2022, the Council has instructed staff to provide more financial data, including information on projected inflation rates for the coming years.

The Council adopted the renters’ protection ordinance in March 2020 during the early days of the pandemic. Since then, the ordinance has been amended and updated as case rates and projected end-dates for the pandemic shifted. The May 31 end-date for the city’s protections is in line with the end dates for similar protections enacted by the State of California and Los Angeles County. The updated ordinance to lift the ban is expected to be voted on by the Council on April 12.

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