South Pasadena tenant advocates are incensed over a new provision the city intends to adopt tonight requiring tenants to provide substantial documentation, including medical bills and bank statements, to prove their qualification for COVID-19 related protections from eviction under the city’s Local Emergency Proclamation.
The change is buried among the dozen items slated for a single vote under the consent agenda and the revised language is not called out in the accompanying staff memo.
The city adopted the Proclamation, which also suspended utility shut offs and late fees for water bills and parking fees, on March 18. But it is set to expire May 18. The new resolution is almost identical to the one approved March 18 in that it extends both the utility and eviction protections, though it also adds a provision on temporary commercial signage.
But while the new version retains language preventing evictions “if the tenant is able to show an inability to pay rent” due to financial impacts related to COVID-19, it also adds a section saying the tenant must retain and provide the landlord “verifiable documentation” such as termination notices, payroll checks, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, and letters or statements from employers “explaining the tenant’s changed financial circumstances to support the tenant’s assertion of an inability to pay.”
These are “pretty draconian certification requirements,” said local activist John Srebalus, who helped draft the city’s original language. It requires disclosure of some very “personal things” and compares unfavorably with the expansion of the rent freeze and eviction moratorium approved unanimously by County Supervisors April 14. Srebalus noted that measure requires landlords to accept “self-certification” of a tenant’s inability to pay and gives tenants 12 months after the crisis ends to repay the arrears, as compared to the six months allowed by South Pasadena.
Srebalus said the tenant advocates will oppose the city’s renewal and ask instead that the Council simply to let the city’s Proclamation expire, which he said will allow the county’s order to take effect within the city.
“The March 18th resolution was a good-faith measure to protect renters when no such measures were available,” said Elizabeth Anne Bagasao, in a statement forwarded by the South Pasadena Tenants Union. “The measure before the Council tonight is a sneak attack on renters that affords them fewer protections than they would receive under the expanded county measure.”
The resolution would also extend the regulations on public and private facilities and gatherings; the request for reimbursement of COVID-19 costs by state and federal agencies; and the authorization allowing the city manager to take all necessary actions as the city’s director of emergency services.