OAKLAND — A trio of rental housing providers on Monday called on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to finally end its COVID-19 eviction moratorium and stop inviting tenants to withhold rent without the risk of eviction.
During a press conference organized by the California Apartment Association, the landlords shared their stories of financial distress attributable to the three-year eviction moratorium — and the tenants who’ve abused it.
Family owed $108K plus in back rent
Judie Zhu, a rental property owner in Livermore, said she and her husband are owed over $108,000 in back rent. During the pandemic, tenants at all three of their properties ceased paying rent. While they got two renters to move out, a third tenant, who rents out one room in the same home that the Zhus live in with their two sons, has declined to leave, refused to cooperate in applying for rental assistance, and is still not paying rent — even though he has the means.
The lack of rental income has left the couple, first-generation Americans, struggling to make ends meet, and both drive for DoorDash about 10 hours a day seven days a week. Judie Zhu’s mother takes care of their two sons, one of whom has a chronic medical condition and requires treatment every two weeks at Children’s Hospital.
The family hired an attorney and attempted to evict the tenant through legal channels, however their case was thrown out.
‘What’s happening is robbery’
“He said to us that he would never pay, and he would never leave because the government would protect them,” Judie Zhu said.
She said luxury items, including expensive clothes, are delivered daily at their doorsteps.
“But they’re not for us,” Zhu said. “They’re for the renter who is refusing to pay us what we agreed to and is refusing to pay us the rent that we used to pay our son’s medical bills.”
Choking back tears, Zhu said she moved to the United States 15 years ago and believed that America was a place where people can make their dreams come true if they follow the rules and work hard.
“I thought this was a country that stood for justice, but instead it’s actively protecting someone who is robbing me and my family,” she said. “The law is forcing me to live with this person inside our home. What’s happening is robbery.”
Rental to help pay for college
Another presenter, Rubina Karnad, talked about how the eviction moratorium, combined with a nonpaying tenant, affected her daughter.
After Karnard’s husband died in 1998, she set aside money from the insurance proceeds to buy a rental property for her daughter in East Oakland, an investment that would help the young woman pay for college. Before the pandemic, things worked as planned, with her daughter in graduate school studying to be a therapist.
Then the tenant her mom in tears, out of money and struggling to keep up with expenses, even while working three jobs.
“Meanwhile, I drive by and see her tenant with a brand-new car in the driveway, and I asked him, ‘Please pay my daughter. She doesn’t have any money. She can’t afford to allow you to live here rent free,” Karnard recalled. “He says, ‘Next time if you come here, I’m gonna let my dogs loose on you.’”
Owner leaves home amid ‘toxic’ situation
Another presenter, Hannah Kirk, is a single mother of two and owns a home in Oakland.
“In October of 2019, I rented one of the rooms in my house to another single mom for below-market rent, hoping we could live together in community,” Kirk recalled.
The tenant, however, stopped paying rent and never signed her portion of the landlord assistance application or declared any kind of hardship. Meanwhile, the tenant racked up $15,000 in rental debt.
The owner said the situation became toxic, so she and her children moved out of their own house. Now, she’s facing possible foreclosure.
“My house is now one of many homes that will be taken off the rental market,” Kirk said. “Hundreds, if not thousands of units in Alameda County, have now been removed from the market altogether because of the eviction moratorium.
She added: “I understand the need for housing and the need for reducing homelessness. But putting this burden on the shoulders of single mothers, retirees, immigrants, and people of color who are homeowners with just one or two properties is not the way to do it.”
Impact: Moratorium to end April 29
Joshua Howard, CAA’s executive vice president of local public affairs, said the three speakers’ stories represent just a fraction of the challenges housing providers face in Alameda County.
“We’ve convened this press conference today to call on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to do one thing — end the eviction moratorium,” Howard said. “No more delays, no more excuses, no more bureaucracy: End the eviction moratorium.”
The next day, the Board of Supervisors indicated they would allow the moratorium to lapse in 60 days — or through April 29.
That decision also comes amid ongoing litigation from CAA, which sued the county alleging the eviction moratorium is unconstitutional.
Howard said an end to the moratorium is encouraging but emphasized that the county has more work to do.
“CAA calls upon the Board of Supervisors to now make Alameda County property owners whole for the injustices, loss of income, and harm they have suffered because of this unfair moratorium. The county must urgently consider reimbursing property owners for unpaid rent they are owed.”
In the media
News media coverage of the press conference: