Contra Costa County’s moratorium on evictions directly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended from May 31 until July 15, and starting soon will no longer allow businesses over certain employee and gross-receipt thresholds to defer rent payments.
The revised ordinance, approved Tuesday by a 5-0 vote, narrows the definition of “commercial real property” to property where small businesses, manufacturers or nonprofit organizations operate. Such businesses must be independently owned, have 100 or fewer employees and have average annual gross receipts of no more than $15 million over the previous three years.
Chief Assistant County Counsel Mary Ann Mason said the changes are modeled on the city of Oakland’s eviction moratorium ordinance.
Supervisors said this change was made to give relief to landlords who themselves may be small businesses who are not getting rent from tenants who, in some cases, have deeper financial pockets than they do.
The supervisors heard Tuesday from one such landlord, Steve Cortese of Lafayette-based Cortese Investment Co. He said several of his tenants of his company’s properties around Contra Costa County are larger and stronger financially than his own company, and that they qualify to not pay rent based on COVID-19-related financial hardships.
“The county has made themselves arbiters of who has the better financial resources during the crisis,” Cortese told the supervisors.
The original urgency ordinance said owners “of residential property or commercial property,” without specifying the size of those owners, cannot evict tenants if the tenant can prove the failure to pay rent is directly related to loss of income or out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those larger commercial tenants will have until the end of July to pay that rent; small-business and residential tenants will have 120 days after the shelter-in-place order is lifted to make good on rent payments.
Supervisors have repeatedly acknowledged that many property owners in Contra Costa County are under the same financial pressures as are their tenants.
Just the same, several renters and advocacy group representatives implored the board to extend the moratorium because the job market has not yet improved, and will only get better incrementally.
County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord said she had heard from some renters in her district that some landlords had tried to evict residents anyway, and had tried to use those tenants’ limited ability to speak and understand English to intimidate and evict them despite the moratorium.
“These ‘bad actor’ landlords’ behavior is abhorrent,” an angry Mitchoff said, to which Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond responded, “Hear! Hear!”
“Our job is to call that out,” Gioia said.