California lawmakers extend eviction moratorium through June

California lawmakers on Thursday voted to extend the eviction moratorium through June statewide and also gave the OK to distributing $2.6 billion in federal funding for rental housing assistance. 

The eviction moratorium, which means that landlords can't kick out renters for nonpayment if it was related to the pandemic, was set to expire on Sunday. The approval of SB 91 extends the tenant, landlord, and homeowner protections under AB 3088, enacted last year, until June 30. 

If this hadn't had passed, people throughout California might have faced evictions as early as Monday. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the legislation. 

California state Sen. Nancy Skinner, (D-Berkeley), chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, applauded the votes in the Senate and Assembly.

"Millions of Californians can now breathe a sigh of relief," she said in a statement. "Renters won’t face eviction, landlords can be confident some portion of back rent will be paid, and struggling homeowners will be protected against foreclosure." 

While many tenants have not been impacted financially by the pandemic, a huge number of renters surely have said Lupe Arreola, executive director of the statewide advocacy organization Tenants Together.

"Absolutely, we're definitely talking about several millions of people. About 25% of tenants were paying over 50% of their income in rent pre-pandemic," said Arreola.

Under SB 91, landlords who choose to participate in the program will receive 80% of any back rent owed due to COVID-impacted tenants being unable to pay full rent since last year. In exchange, the rental debt accumulated by their tenants will be erased and renters will be protected from eviction through June 30.

Tenants of landlords who decline to participate are still eligible for the rental assistance but must pay at least 25% of their monthly rent to be protected from eviction through June 30.

Landlords are also barred from applying a tenant’s security deposit to their rental debt, prohibited from charging late fees, and banned from taking legal actions to seek recovery of rental debt until after June 30.

Landlords will also have to show that they have made a good-faith effort to secure rental assistance before they can attempt to collect COVID-related rental debt. Prioritization for the rental assistance will be for low-income households.

"A landlord who may be looking already to evict a long term tenant or to evict somebody who lives in a rent controlled jurisdiction could use this as a pretext," said Arreola.

One of the biggest concerns is a tsunami of claims.

"Getting this money out, getting it out to the right people, making sure it gets out without any fraud or other concerns and making sure that people can get their questions answered," was of utmost importance said State Senator Dan Cortese (D-San Jose).

A bill by Sen. Skinner's office will establish a multi-lingual call center for landlords and tenants to assure those without internet service can be served.

Tenants Together advises, if tenants get an eviction notice, don't leave without first getting advices from tenants groups or legal aid.