After three years of shielding tenants from eviction due to missed rent payments, Los Angeles County is rolling back COVID-19 protections and state of emergency rules.
Renter and other COVID-19 related protections will expire March 31. This is the end of a state of emergency in the county that was originally set to expire at the end of January, before the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the deadline by two months.
This comes after county leaders rejected a proposal to extend the deadline even further and introduce new protections that would “soften the blow” for renters who may be evicted for missing a payment.
The extended proposal would have required landlords to state specific reasons for eviction, allowed renters who moved in roommates or pets without authorization to stay an extra year and prevented landlords from raising rents by more than 3%.
The Board of Supervisors’ decision to end all emergency tenant protections marks a new direction for county officials, who repeatedly extended policies aimed at helping renters. For many, the largest concern is how many people may now become unhoused if they are unable to meet payments.
But while COVID-influenced renter safeguards in L.A. County are set to disappear, new local protections will likely take their place.
“There has been time for our cities to put in place their own protections,” Supervisor Janice Hahn, who voted no on the question of another extension, said during the meeting. “At this point, it feels like an overreach right now to impose these [rules] on the incorporated cities.”
There is also concern for people enduring food insecurity due to the emergency expiration. David May, the director of marketing and communications at the L.A. Regional Food Bank, explained how they plan to compensate.
“Our work is made possible through the generosity of the community,” May said. “So the way we’re able to provide so much food throughout the community at such little cost is because we have so much donated food products and donated time in the form of volunteer hours [as well as] cash donations.”
There is a fairly high need for food assistance in L.A. County, regardless of the COVID-19 emergency expirations. Prior to the pandemic, the L.A. Region Food Bank, with its network of about 600 partner agencies, was assisting about 300,000 people per month. At the peak of the pandemic, they reached over one million people, but now serve 800,000 people each month. Their hope is that this number does not increase considering the new end to emergency protocols.
“We have a high cost of living. There’s a high need for assistance, because by the time people pay their rent or their utilities or other bills that you have to pay, sometimes people consider their food budget [to be flexible],” May said. “And of course, we don’t want people to be skipping meals to pay [for] these other things.”
Along with the end of rent protections and food security concerns, the expiration of L.A.’s state of emergency will trigger healthcare coverage and access changes across the county. The L.A. County Department of Public Health, Health Services and the Department of Social Services will be conducting a review of public health orders that must be completed by the end of March.
As far as the life of the average patient is concerned, there will be no drastic changes following the COVID-19 health emergency expiration. Rather, the expiration will move toward treating COVID-19 just as other communicable diseases and shifting intervention actions to patients’ individual healthcare providers.
Vaccines will remain widely accessible and testing for COVID-19 will continue to be provided at public health sites for anyone in need. Safety precautions also will not be affected; if infected, individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate themselves from others for a minimum of five days. Businesses and schools are required to continue reporting COVID-19 case clusters to the LADPH. Healthcare workers will still need to have vaccinations against COVID-19 and must continue to wear masks when providing patient care.
All three major L.A. County health departments will continue their mask mandate for health workers when near patients. The state, by comparison, will roll back both such mask guidelines on April 3.
For more information on housing protections in L.A. County after March 31, visit https://dcba.lacounty.gov/noevictions.