California Governor Gavin Newsom Halts Evictions Amid Pandemic

March 17, 2020 Updated: March 17, 2020
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California Governor Gavin Newsom on March 16 issued an executive order to help protect renters and homeowners during the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order (pdf) authorizes local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners, slows foreclosures, and protects against utility shutoffs for Californians affected by COVID-19 and will remain in effect through May 31, 2020 unless extended. It also requests banks and other financial institutions halt foreclosures and related evictions.

It follows concerns that many Californians are experiencing substantial loss of hours or wages, or layoffs related to COVID-19, making it harder to keep up with rent payments, mortgages, and utility bills.

“People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19,” said Newsom in a statement. “Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices—but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians.”

However, the governor’s Executive Order does not relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent, or restrict the landlord’s ability to recover rent that is due.

In addition, the governor has asked the California’s Public Utilities Commission to monitor measures by both public and private utility providers to implement customer service protections for electric, gas, water, internet, landline telephone, and cellphone service on a weekly basis.

California currently has 392 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, including one non-California resident, according to March 15 figures from the California Department of Public Health. This total does not include passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship currently docked in Oakland.

On Sunday, Newsom called on all bars, pubs, breweries, and wineries in California to shut down over the coronavirus, adding that there will be new restrictions on restaurants.

Restaurants will have their occupancy levels cut in half, he announced on Sunday night in a press conference, adding that people need to distance from one another. “We believe this is a nonessential function in our state,” Newsom said of bars. “And we believe that is appropriate under the circumstances to move in that direction.”

Senior citizens, people aged 65 and older, are asked to stay at home unless they have an emergency reason. This request extends to residents with underlying health issues, such as blood disorders, chronic kidney disease, asthma, chronic liver disease, compromised immune systems, pregnancies in the last two weeks, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and other conditions that make them more susceptible to serious illness, according to the Los Angeles Times.