LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Members of the Los Angeles Tenants Union surrounded City Hall on foot and in vehicles Thursday morning demanding that city and state leaders cancel rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We would be able to use that money on needs and necessities. They’re expecting us to have one to two weeks worth of food, do you know how expensive that is,” asked protester Melissa Reyes.READ MORE: San Bernardino Investigators Say Loma Linda Sexual Predator May Have More Underage Victims That Have Not Yet Come Forward
Last month, L.A. city leaders announced a halt on evictions for tenants who cannot pay their rent because of pandemic-related financial hardships.
Tenants will have up to 12 months to pay back the rent after the pandemic ends.
City leaders have said rent forgiveness is out of their control and they have no legal authority to do it. They say it’s up to the state and federal governments.
“If we don’t get rent cancellation, you’re going to see a lot more people out on the streets in about six months time because they’re not going to be able to repay and repayment agreements or back rent so they’re going to be evicted,” said Elizabeth Blaney of L.A. Tenants Union.
“Banks received $1.5 trillion of our taxpayer money. They are able to forgive some of the mortgage payments for property owners which in turn can forgive tenants. So there is a system in place, they just need to do it,” she said.
While tenants demand the cancellation of their rent payments, there’s another group who says they need help too.READ MORE: Drone Video: Great White Sharks Off California's Coast Are More Common Than You Think
Property owners say if they don’t get paid rent, they won’t be able to pay their mortgages, property taxes, and their own bills.
“They’re asking for something for free. Nothing is free. Everything comes at a cost,” said L.A. property owner Arnold Epstein.
Epstein, 75, is retired and owns a few properties in L.A. He understands renters’ concerns but wants people to know property owners like him also have hardships.
“I don’t have a pension, I need the rent. I have an adult disabled son, I have to pay his housing, his medical bills, I need money for him,” he said.
Epstein says three of his tenants won’t be making their rent in June, but he’s working out a flexible repayment schedule with them.
Although L.A. City Council is looking to help property owners by extending their grace period to pay back due payments, Epstein would like to see help from the federal government.MORE NEWS: 'Just Not Fair': Gascón Drops Bid For Death Penalty In Killing Of 10-Year-Old Anthony Avalos
“The renter wouldn’t get the money, it would come directly to our checking account, doesn’t have to be 100% of the amount, that would be nice, but something,” he said.