Supervisors ban evictions, rent increases during COVID-19 shelter in place with 6-month grace period

No late fees for 120 days

By Daniel Borsuk

Residential and commercial renters will get some rental and eviction relief during the COVID-19 pandemic after the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve an ordinance containing a 180-day grace period, two months more than what supervisors initially had in mind, during a special meeting on Tuesday. (See entire ordinance, here).

By liberally extending the grace period an extra two months, supervisors are handing over to thousands of renters in the county more financial and housing relief during this stressful period when COVID-19 has decimated their financial livelihood. In March, the county’s unemployment rate was 4 percent and April’s unemployment rate will very likely rise sharply when it is release later on.

Instead of inserting a 120-day grace period that other counties like Santa Clara County have inserted in its COVID-19 rent control and eviction moratoria ordinance, Contra Costa County supervisors at the request of District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond convinced other supervisors that a longer grace period is needed given the uncertainty of the duration of the medical and economic repercussions from the current local and state-mandated stay-at-home orders.

Gioia said he favored the more expansive 180-day grace period because the ordinance, as it was proposed to supervisors, does not protect all tenants whether they are delinquent or current in their rent.

“You have to be up to date on rent in order to be protected by the ordinance presented by counsel,” said Gioia. “It’s very unfortunate that the governor’s order requires this. Tenants must be current on rent to qualify for the grace period.”

Supervisors listened to 45 emailed comments from county residents, most of whom were in support of at least a 120-day grace period, little knowing that Gioia would propose a more expansive 180-day grace period.

“We’re dealing with uncertain times,” said District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood. “We’re dealing with people who have not paid rent. People who have lost jobs because businesses have shut down.”

District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill preferred to retain the ordinance’s 120-day grace period clause saying it was sufficient for renters, but eventually agreed to the 180-day grace period for rent and eviction moratoria purposes until May 25 when supervisors plan to revisit the issue.

Other features of the ordinance taken mainly from the Santa Clara County ordinance include countywide, no-fault evictions, definition of owner, attorney fees, and no late fees.

Public Health Ad Hoc Committee Created

While COVID-19 health measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Board Chair Andersen proposed the creation of an ad hoc Public Health Committee that will weekly with county health department officials.

The committee that will consist of Burgis and Board Chair and District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville. The committee’s key role is to be advisory to supervisors and Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Farnitano who will retain ultimate authority on health issues.

“This is not meant to replace the health officer’s directive,” said Supervisor Mitchoff. “There’s been some concern about communication. People are getting frustrated.”

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