In response to economic concerns due to widespread closures caused by the coronavirus (“COVID-19”), on Sunday, March 15, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive order putting a moratorium on evictions. Following Mayor Garcetti’s lead, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a statewide executive order stopping evictions and foreclosures for people affected by the disease through May 31. The Governor’s order also removed restrictions that may have prevented local governments from halting evictions for residential and commercial tenants.
However, on the heels of growing fears that the current order did not do enough to protect citizens from losing their homes, many of California’s municipalities have acted quickly to put additional protections into place. The Los Angeles City Council voted on March 17 to temporarily ban evictions and late fees, require landlords and residential mortgage-holders to work out payment plans with affected residents, reduce city business taxes, and create a citywide rental assistance fund. The plan is not effective immediately, instead requiring the city attorney to draw up an emergency eviction plan.
Concurrently, San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and City Council President Georgette Gómez announced plans to take immediate steps to put a temporary hold on evictions and foreclosures in an effort to provide relief to residents and businesses facing financial hardships related to the COVID-19 outbreak. In their announcement, city officials were clear that the new ordinance will not relieve a tenant of his or her requirement to pay rent, or restrict a landlord from recovering rent at a future time. Instead, the city seeks to prepare a plan that strikes a balance between the interests of tenants, landlords, and lenders.
Similar executive orders or legislation have been issued or proposed throughout the United States, including in Kansas, New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. Uniquely, Texas will suspend evictions and foreclosures for residents impacted by COVID-19 who are part of any of the programs that the Texas Department of Community Affairs oversees, including the Homebuyer Assistance Program, Bootstrap Loan Program, and the Homebuyer Rehabilitation Assistance Program.
In other areas, state officials are attempting to temporarily halt evictions and foreclosures through court stays. In Indiana, the initiation of foreclosure and eviction actions has been suspended through May 1; in Maryland, foreclosure and eviction actions are indefinitely stayed; Pennsylvania courts have paused foreclosures and evictions through April 3; Kentucky through April 10; and in North Carolina, all court cases, including foreclosure and eviction cases, have been postponed for at least 30 days.
Going one step further, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered aide to eligible homeowners by announcing that he will delay mortgage payments for 90 days, including for those who lose their jobs due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Virginia officials urged mortgage holders and servicers to offer hardship forbearances and refrain from credit reporting.
On a national level, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on March 18 that it will provide immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. Similarly, the Federal Housing Finance Agency also announced that it would suspend foreclosures and evictions for homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
As the nation grapples with uncertainty in the wake of fluctuating markets and discussions of recession, our cities, states, judiciaries, and federal government are working to ensure that residents can remain in their homes.