Continuing to work its way through the state Senate this week is a CAA-sponsored bill that would offer financial relief to landlords who’ve been deprived dollars from the COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program (ERAP).

On Tuesday, SB 847 by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 9-1 vote. It now heads to the Appropriations Committee — the last stop before the Senate floor.

The bill would provide state dollars to rental owners who’ve gone without rent and whose tenants either won’t cooperate in the ERAP application process or don’t qualify for the assistance. While the bill would provide funding for all affected owners, it would prioritize small owners to receive those dollars first.

Sen. Melissa Hurtado

Under California’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium, tenants who failed to pay their rent were protected from eviction if they claimed a pandemic related financial hardship. Many landlords have since learned that their nonpaying tenants continued to work or otherwise earn an income during the pandemic and don’t qualify for rental assistance. In at least one case, a tenant received rental assistance from the government last year but still hasn’t paid the rent with it, according to the landlord.

Should SB 847 become law, landlords will need to provide evidence that they applied for help through ERAP and did not receive funding or have a civil judgment against the tenant who has not paid, or both.

Before voting Tuesday, members of the Judiciary Committee heard about the hardships of two landlords who’ve suffered financial losses at the hands of disingenuous tenants.

Owner: Tenant got rental aid, still hasn’t paid

Charlotte Stone, who owns a property in Los Angeles, testified that her tenant accrued $74,000 in rent debt over the past two years, yet under the city’s pandemic-related tenant protections, she has been unable to file for eviction.

As soon as the state rental assistance program was running, Stone applied for help. She also sent a number of formal requests to her tenant asking him to apply as well but received no response. Stone later learned from a Housing is Key administrator that the tenant did indeed apply and received a check for more than $41,000 in late October 2021.

“As of today, the tenant has not paid those dollars to me as required by law,” Stone said. “I reported this to the [state] Fraud Unit, and it is currently under investigation.”

Stone indicated that she has not heard back from investigators nor her tenant, who continues to live in her property without paying rent.

Tenants make money on Airbnb but refuse to pay rent

Ami Shah and her husband, Avinash Jha, bought a home in Alameda County, intending to move in as soon as they fulfilled their own obligations as renters. In the meantime, they rented out their new home to a family of three on a one-year lease.

Ami Shah

The tenants claimed a COVID financial hardship and refused to pay their rent, all the while subletting the house on Airbnb in violation of their lease. To make matters worse, the Airbnb guests also refused to move out. Under Alameda County’s eviction moratorium, the couple could neither evict the original tenants or the guests.

“By the time the Airbnb guests abandoned our home, we had been financially and emotionally drained,” Shah told the Judiciary Committee. “We ended up with not only rental losses that amount to $50K, but also a house that was completely trashed. It cost us an additional $50K to make it habitable.”

Shah said she and her husband came to the United States with just a few hundred dollars, worked hard and saved for a financially secure future for themselves and their children.

“But we ended up housing people for free for over two years and bearing huge losses north of $100K while we continue to pay mortgage and property taxes on the property we couldn’t live in,” she said.