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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Eviction moratorium continues in Santa Barbara County

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 6:42 PM

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors extended the county’s moratorium on evictions for those who can’t pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic during its meeting on May 19.

To qualify for eviction protection, tenants must be able to prove that they are unable to pay their rent because of a loss of income related to COVID-19 or additional medical bills related to the virus. The measure doesn’t excuse tenants from repaying their landlord that unpaid rent in the future.

But the county’s moratorium is only good if Gov. Gavin Newsom extends an executive order he issued in March that provides local governments with the flexibility to pass such measures. That’s set to expire on May 31. If the governor extends his order, the county’s moratorium will remain in place for the duration of the statewide extension.

Also in play is an executive order the governor issued in late March that temporarily prohibits evictions statewide, which is also set to expire at the end of May. So as long as the governor extends one of the orders, residents in the county’s unincorporated areas will continue to receive this protection either through the state or the county’s measure.

First District Supervisor Das Williams said this extension is necessary given the number of people who remain out of work due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The issue is that the economic damage of the COVID crisis is far from being done and may result in a large number of people losing their housing,” Williams said.

However, for some county residents who submitted written public comments to the board about this issue, the county’s moratorium doesn’t go far enough. The comments cite other jurisdictions, such as the city of Santa Barbara, which have also established guidelines that give tenants six to 12 months to pay landlords back the rent they owe.

In one letter, Kenny Morris stated that tenants could have a large rent bill due when the eviction moratorium ends if there aren’t protections in place.

“Right now I worry that [this moratorium] is just kicking the issue down the road, but passing a 12-month repayment plan for tenants could help alleviate some of the burden,” Morris wrote.

In response, Williams said the county doesn’t have the flexibility to enact some of the same ordinances that cities can approve. But, he said he’s working with county counsel to identify what options the county could pursue to provide further protections.

“The speakers, or public commenters, should not assume that because a charter city like Santa Barbara or [Los Angeles] can enact a measure, that we can,” Williams said. “We are researching other mechanisms that other jurisdictions have done to look at their legality for the case of Santa Barbara County.” ∆
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