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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An association of rental owners filed a lawsuit Thursday against San Diego County and its Board of Supervisors over an ordinance passed last week that temporarily restricts the ability of county landlords to evict residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Southern California Rental Housing Association seeks an injunction preventing the county from implementing or enforcing the ordinance passed May 4 through a 3-2 Board of Supervisors’ vote.

The ordinance, which takes effect early next month, prevents landlords from evicting tenants unless they are an “imminent health or safety threat” to other tenants or occupants of the same property.

“Even if they’re in breach of contract by adding a pet a roommate or causing a nuisance, you can’t evict then because of these eviction moratoriums,” real estate investor Kristofor Carnegie told FOX 5.

In its suit filed in San Diego federal court, the SCRHA alleges the ordinance only allows landlords to evict tenants under extremely limited and vague circumstances, and is unlikely to be used because of the litigation risks involved, making that exception to the ordinance “toothless.”

The SCRHA also alleges many of the rental owners affected by the ordinance are small “mom and pop” landlords who will not be allowed to evict nonpaying tenants, tenants who threaten or harass their landlords, or those who are using their units for illegal purposes.

“The ordinance threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of property owners in the county who provide tenants with housing,” the complaint alleges.

The moratorium imposed by the ordinance is effective until 60 days after all COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are lifted, which Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated would occur June 15.

Carnegie said the moratorium doesn’t leave a lot of options of landlords.

“I lay in bed at night and I’ll wake up and it’s like, I can’t evict them,” he said. “I can’t sell the property with someone in there. I have to keep the utilities on in that house and my house and a lot of that runs through my head.”

The ordinance was approved following a four-hour hearing that included hundreds of telephoned comments from members of the public. Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond voted no.

Supervisor Nora Vargas, who introduced the ordinance, stressed that it isn’t permanent, and said the ordinance benefits working families and vulnerable residents.

“We find ourselves on the road to recovery, but there are still many struggling,” she said. “Our region has a moratorium, but there still aren’t enough protections. (The ordinance) is buying us time to avoid larger housing problems.”

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