Vote planned to end California’s eviction ban

July 29, 2020

A statewide moratorium on evicting tenants during the coronavirus pandemic could end in the next 2 ½ weeks, triggering what some fear could be “a wave of evictions” unless lawmakers reinstate the ban.

 

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the state Judicial Council, announced Friday, July 24, that she plans to hold a vote “very soon,” with the ban expected to end on Aug. 14. She said it’s up to the governor and state lawmakers to fashion future tenant protections during the pandemic.

 

The Judicial Council, which oversees the state’s court system, imposed the eviction ban on April 6, effectively freezing court action on all eviction cases, except to protect public health and safety.

 

The emergency order was set to expire 90 days following the end of the coronavirus state of emergency, which still is in effect.

 

In her statement Friday, Cantil-Sakauye explained the court system acted to keep people in their homes during the shelter-in-place orders because the legislature was shut down. But lawmakers resumed meeting this week.

“The remedies … are best left to the legislative and executive branches of government,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “I want to give the two branches enough notice that the council will very soon resume voting to terminate these temporary orders.”

 

However, it’s unlikely the legislature can enact legislation by Aug. 14, possibly putting many tenants at risk of losing their homes, tenants advocates said. Landlord groups, on the other hand, are eager to see the statewide ban lifted, saying the pandemic is taking a toll on many small operators struggling to pay their mortgage and expenses.

 

The state received more than 7.1 million unemployment applications since stay-at-home orders plunged the economy into a downturn. Eighty-two percent of tenants responding to an online Southern California News Group survey in July said their household lost income due to pandemic shutdowns.

With so many out of work, rent collections tumbled. More than 14% of California renters said they failed to pay their June rent on time, equivalent to more than 1.5 million renter households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey. Thirty-five percent said they have little or no confidence they’ll be able to pay the rent on time in August.

 

“The situation is dire,” Francisco Duenas, executive director of affordable housing advocate Housing Now! California, said in a statement. He noted the proposed vote is occurring after  the recent loss of federal eviction protections.

 

A tally by the California Apartment Association shows 172 cities and counties enacted some form of pandemic-related tenant protections, or about a third of all the municipalities in the state. But local rules vary as to how long protections remain in place and how long tenants have to repay back rent.

 

“It still leaves many Californians with no local protections,” said Madeline Howard, a fair housing and eviction defense attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

 

Since Gov. Newsom’s eviction ban expired on May 31, the Judicial Council rule is the only statewide eviction ban in California.

 

“The Judicial Council rule is the only thing that is stopping a massive number of evictions from happening,” she said. “It’s a really scary prospect.”

 

Two bills aimed at protecting renters from evictions are pending in the legislature.

 

SB 1410 by Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, allows tenants owing rent to avoid eviction if they reach an “eviction relief agreement” with their property owners. Under such agreements, tenants would have from 2024 through 2034 to repay their rent to the state; and landlords could get tax credits equal to the amount they failed to collect from their tenants.

The bill, which passed the Senate, is awaiting an Assembly committee hearing on Aug. 12.

 

Under AB 1436 by Assembly member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, evictions would be banned until three months after the state of emergency ends or April 1, 2021, whichever comes first. Tenants would have an additional 12 months to repay back rent if they experienced COVID-related hardships. That bill passed in the Assembly on May 29 and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

“The Judicial Council’s decision certainly makes the need to pass eviction and foreclosure protections that much more urgent,” Chiu said. “There are millions of Californians who could be forced from their homes if we do not act.”

 

Landlord groups, meanwhile, have opposed eviction bans, saying some small landlords are being devastated by missed payments. They maintain further many tenants who can pay are using eviction moratoriums as an excuse not to pay.

 

Debra Carlton, vice president for public affairs at the California Apartment Association, disputed claims there will be massive evictions without a moratorium, saying many landlords are working out repayment plans with their renters to avert evictions.

 

“At the same time, we are very concerned about small property owners who have not received the rent for months and have told us that their banks will not grant further forbearance,” Carlton said in an email. “These owners could very well lose their rental housing, and tenants would lose their homes as well.”

 

Fountain Valley landlord Ben Paparella has collected just $700 since February from the tenant who leases his townhome in Costa Mesa. The tenant recently requested that he forgive the $12,300 back rent she owes, plus pay her an additional $6,000 to move out.

 

“The ban needs to end,” Paparella said in an email. “I am sure that with all the government assistance being offered to renters, my tenant has money to pay us something. Yet, she has not.” 

 

via MSN

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