California lawmakers unveiled legislation today that would extend the state’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium through Sept. 30, one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the nationwide moratorium through July.
AB 832 would keep California’s eviction moratorium in effect for two months beyond the federal eviction ban. Tenant activists had pushed for an extension of the state moratorium through the end of 2021. At present, the moratorium (SB 91) is scheduled to lapse Wednesday, June 30.
The Legislature could vote on the bill as early as Monday, June 28.
“We are disappointed that the CDC extended a nationwide eviction moratorium through July, and the state of California has extended an eviction moratorium through September,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association. “Both the federal and state eviction moratoriums would not be necessary if state and local governments were disbursing rental assistance funds to tenants and housing providers in an expedited manner.
“It is frustrating that the state of California and numerous local governments have not quickly disbursed funds to those in need, especially to mom-and-pop rental housing providers who have not seen any rent payments yet must still pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and other expenses.”
Limits new local eviction moratoria
The new bill would prohibit cities and counties from adopting new eviction moratoria from now through March 2022, although existing local moratoria can remain in effect, such as in the city of Los Angeles. By pre-empting local governments, the bill would ensure consistency in eviction policies across the state. It also would prevent some cities from implementing more onerous local eviction moratoria passed in anticipation of SB 91 lapsing.
Over 5,000 letters from members of the California Apartment Association made it clear to legislators that a long extension was unacceptable to the organization, while at the same time, they drove home the need to get money to property owners quickly. This new legislation will pay owners 100% of their past and future rent. Of course, it’s only a good thing if owners get the money soon.
The legislation to extend the eviction moratorium comes despite California fully reopening its economy this month, rising COVID-19 vaccination rates and declining infections. Moreover, a newly released report by Beacon Economics shows that most renters are well-positioned to rebound from the pandemic financially.
Underpinning the push to extend the eviction moratorium, though, is the state’s and local governments’ inefficient distribution of rental assistance to renters and rental housing providers who have applied and qualify but have heard nothing from funding administrators.
“It is unacceptable that state and local governments have distributed less than 15% of the billions of dollars earmarked for California rental assistance,” Bannon said. “California has got to distribute these dollars faster so that the eviction moratorium being introduced today is the last.”
More time to pay 25%
Under the bill, tenants who’ve completed a declaration of COVID-19 hardship would receive three more months to pay 25% of the rent owed during the pandemic. If they do so, they will stay protected against eviction for those rental arrears. They still owe the rent, however. Tenants who have failed to produce a completed declaration of COVID-19 hardship can still be evicted for nonpayment of rent, just as under SB 91.
Owners must apply for funding before evicting
Beginning October 1, 2021, owners can begin to serve tenants with a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. AB 832 does, however, require rental owners to verify they have applied for rental relief funding and have waited at least 20 days. If the owner hears nothing from the government or the tenant about the funding within those 20 days, the owner can proceed with an eviction.
Under the new legislation, rental owners will be paid 100% of back rent owed by qualifying tenants — up from 80% in SB 91. Those who have already received the 80% will automatically receive the remaining 20%. Although rental assistance is still reserved for tenants earning less than 80% of the area median income, the state is making some exceptions for higher-earning renters who can show a loss of wages due to COVID. CAA is requesting state dollars to help owners who have been caught with tenants who have not paid, who have left owing money, and who don’t – and never would have – qualified for funding.
Reforms against abuse still needed
Bannon said CAA continues to call on the state and local governments to limit protections in those situations where tenants have used loopholes in SB 91 to avoid paying rent even if they could afford to.
“Unfortunately, thousands of renters are abusing the system,” Bannon said. “We’re talking about people who had the ability to pay or kept working full time throughout the pandemic but quit paying rent because they knew the moratorium would make it difficult to proceed with an eviction. This cannot continue.”