The Marin County Board of Supervisors this week offered countywide rental protections to those suffering a substantial loss of income due to the coronavirus outbreak. Effective immediately, landlords cannot evict residential or commercial tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to changed financial circumstances related to the pandemic. Exercising increased authority, the supervisors offered this safeguard not only for the unincorporated area but also all cities and towns in Marin.
The qualifying financial circumstances spelled out in the new policy include the loss of income due to Covid-19-related business closures, missed work or childcare expenditures related to school closures, health care expenses related to being ill with Covid-19 or caring for a family member infected with the virus and, lastly, reasonable expenditures that stem from government-ordered emergency measures.
Notably, the relief is temporary and tenants remain liable for the unpaid rent. The protections are in place through May, though the board may amend or extend them at any time.
Similar policies are going into effect statewide: on March 16, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that provided local jurisdictions the authority to determine measures to promote housing safety and stability, protect public health and mitigate economic impacts.
Supervisors, who sat six feet apart at their board meeting on Tuesday, encouraged the work of county staff to usher forward the rules, which build on the county’s eviction protections. Board chair Katie Rice cautioned the public not to take advantage of the policy.
“This is put in place for the dire circumstances,” she said. “To the degree people can pay their rent, we want them to do that. We want to keep cash flowing through the local economy to the degree we can. We need to look at this as a last resort.”
The policy states that if residential or commercial tenants have not made a timely rent payment, landlords are barred from evicting them so long as tenants provide notice to the landlord within 30 days of the date the rent was due. Within one week of providing this notice, the tenant also has to provide his or her landlord with documentation of the financial impact of Covid-19.
The policy is subject to enforcement. The director of the Community Development Agency will take the lead in developing further guidelines consistent with this resolution if needed, including recommendations of the types of documentation for landlords.
“Displacing renters who are unable to pay rent due to these types of financial impacts will worsen the crisis by making it difficult for them to follow the health guidance of social distancing and isolation, which will put tenants and many others at great risk,” Leelee Thomas, a county planning manager, wrote to the board in her draft of the new policy.