Alameda County landlords owed thousands in rent, call for an end to eviction moratorium
FREMONT, Calif. - Small mom-and-pop rental owners say they’ve been victimized by Alameda County’s eviction moratorium with some owed more than $100,000 in back rent.
The moratorium has been in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, banning most evictions and allowing some well-off tenants to exploit the emergency order for personal gain.
"There is just no reason for them not to pay their rent and just take advantage of the moratorium, which was really meant to protect people with low income, not people with high income like them," Fremont landlord Dorothy Wang said. "I am angry about the situation. I’ve felt very hopeless for two years."
Wang said she hasn’t been inside her rental home in years and has missed out on more than $100,000 in rent after her tenant refused to keep paying.
While the eviction ban was designed to help renters facing hardship, her tenant Ashees Sinha, works at a tech company and pulls in $200,000 a year, according to the lease agreement provided to KTVU.
Initially, Wang said she gave Sinha a break on rent for several months in 2020 to help amid the beginning of the pandemic.
But then the payments just stopped.
Currently, the moratorium in Alameda County has no eligibility requirements and no proof of COVID-related impacts are necessary to avoid paying rent.
"I don’t get a penny for the rent and we cannot evict them," Wang said. "They have caused great emotional and financial detriment to me and my family."
She needed Sinha and his family to apply for government rental assistance but calls and requests went unanswered. The application was denied.
But documents show that they purchased a new home in Union City, yet are still staying rent-free in Fremont.
Sinha referred KTVU to his attorney who would not comment citing civil litigation.
Wang’s story is not unique.
Ami Shah and her husband temporarily planned to rent-out their Fremont home. A couple signed a lease that said no subleasing was allowed.
After several months, the payments stopped coming and they learned their property was posted on Airbnb.
"They were making money off our property by putting our property up on Airbnb," she said. "Just thinking about the hundreds of strangers coming in and out of my property…that’s scary, frustrating, saddening – everything all at the same time."
Even with the lease not allowing subtenants, the Shahs said it took months in an intense legal battle just to get their home back. Their place was trashed and condemned.
They say they spent more money to renovate and bring the home up to code. Their tenants ultimately skipped out on roughly $50,000 in rent.
Landlords across Alameda County have filed lawsuits and petitioned county leaders. One even started a hunger strike in hopes the evictions moratorium will be put to an end.
Jingyu Wu owns a triplex in San Leandro and sat outside the Alameda County Administration Building in Oakland to protest Monday morning..
"I have a tenant. She owes me about $120,000 rent for more than three years," he said.
Property owners and advocates have ramped up pressure in recent days blaming the board of supervisors and demanding the tenant protections be lifted to prevent renters from taking advantage.
"I think that we’ve certainly enabled them to do that and I don’t think we’ve fully recognized the amount of people that have done that," District One Supervisor David Haubert said. "Shame on them."
He said the moratorium should have been previously amended. Haubert now plans to request county and federal money to make it up to unpaid landlords.
"I pledge to fight for every penny of lost rent," he said. "I believe landlords, rental housing providers, property owners should be made whole for the amount of rent that they’ve lost."
It’s still not known if or when the eviction ban will end. After months of requests, supervisors are scheduled to review the moratorium during their meeting Tuesday.
As written, the ban is set to expire 60 days after the state of emergency ends. That means if it stands, the eviction moratorium would continue until May 1.
"What I want to see is justice being done," Shah said. "This is just not right. It has gone on too long."
Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU