Residential landlords in Morgan Hill are prohibited from increasing their tenants’ monthly rent prices while the coronavirus crisis and related stay-home orders are underway, according to city officials.
An April 8 order of the city’s Director of Emergency Services imposed a moratorium on residential rent increases for at least 60 days after the current shelter-at-home orders are lifted, according to city staff. The city’s order was implemented after at least one local resident complained to City Hall that a landlord was planning to increase the rent on May 1.
A countywide shelter-at-home order issued March 17—followed by a statewide directive the next day—in response to the coronavirus pandemic has shut down businesses, leaving their employees without wages or income to pay their rent and other bills. The stay-home orders are now in effect until May 3.
In late March, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved an eviction moratorium through May 31 in response to the stay-at-home orders. That moratorium applies to unincorporated areas as well as all 15 cities in the county—an action that Morgan Hill City Council members applauded.
The April 8 City of Morgan Hill moratorium on residential rent increases notes that rent increases during the local emergency could lead vulnerable people to lose their shelter, which could add to the spread of the coronavirus. The order also notes that housing was a challenge even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with many renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
The order states, “There is an urgent need for the city to enact substantive limitations to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents in light of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, including the need to keep residents in their homes during the shelter in place.”
Landlords in Morgan Hill thus cannot raise their rent above the rate that was in place on March 1, until 60 days after the revocation of the stay-home orders—a period that “gives tenants time to find new housing if they are priced out of their current places,” City Attorney Don Larkin said. The rent freeze order was signed by city officials on April 8. It was subject to council approval at the April 15 meeting.
“We are in the process of notifying landlords, and will continue to publicize the order,” Larkin said. “Our hope is that property owners will voluntarily comply, so we don’t have to take any formal enforcement actions, but we will be monitoring the situation closely.”
Any renters who have been notified that their rent will increase before the period specified in the order can report the violation by clicking the “Report a Concern” link on the city’s website, morganhill.ca.gov.
Local resident Michael Andresen told the Times that his mother Cynthia Mejia’s long-term care residence in Morgan Hill had notified her on Feb. 25 that her monthly rent and care cost would increase by about 75 percent on May 1. The Feb. 25 notification was before the coronavirus reached the widespread “community transmission” stage in Santa Clara County, but Andresen said the landlord initially declined to delay the proposed May 1 increase after the stay-home orders were issued.
Andresen said he then sent an email to City Hall about the situation on April 8. That same day, city staff replied that the city had just implemented the rent freeze order, Andresen said in an email to the Times.
Andresen then notified the management at his mother’s residence of the city’s moratorium, and the owner has since agreed to delay the proposed rent and care increases indefinitely.
“As of today, he has ceased on increasing the rent for my mother,” Andresen said in an April 14 email.