California lawmakers take up issue of extending eviction moratoriums

California legislators on Monday discussed the issue of extending the state’s moratorium on evictions due to hardship from the pandemic.

The existing legislation expires at the end of June, so it’s an urgent issue.

With more than $5 billion in federal rental assistance money provided to California, the state has an opportunity to extend existing protections until the end of September.

An Oakland-based research group puts the number of Californians behind on rent at around 800,000.

But it’s not just tenants who are affected, it’s also their landlords.

"Smaller rental housing owners have been suffering," said David Stark with Bay East Association of Realtors. "They’re in the business to help their tenants stay sheltered, but they have bills to pay as well." 

The eviction moratorium extension could help landlords and their tenants.

A few notable portions of the bill include: 

  • Landlords will be eligible for 100% of rent owed, up from 80%.
  • Tenants could get 100% coverage when landlords refuse to apply, up from 25%.
  • Between Sept. 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, tenants must pay 25% of missed rent to avoid eviction.
  • Landlords can’t evict for non-payment through Sept. 30.

"There are some other changes in this bill, this program, that I think are going to speed it up, get more money to landlords and tenants and hopefully do away with this middle approach and knock this problem out," said state Sen. Dave Cortese.

Cortese represents District 15, covering much of Santa Clara county.  During an interview with KTVU Sunday, he addressed one issue that’s been heavily criticized, the slow progress in doling out funds.

Of the billions of dollars available, only slightly more than $60 million has been distributed so far under the existing plan.

"For one thing, people have been under the protection of the moratorium and maybe there hasn’t been this sense of urgency for some.  Landlords have been a little bit slow to take up the offer, possibly that was because before the landlords were forgiving 20% of the rent," said Cortese.

Some real estate experts say landlords were already fed up with what they consider onerous government regulations even before the pandemic, and eviction moratorium extensions make matters worse, motivating some landlords to sell properties, or strongly consider it.

"And the concern is they’re not selling to other landlords, they’re selling to other owner-occupants and we’re losing that supply of rental housing," said Stark.

When it comes to eviction moratorium extensions, Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association recently said, "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."

If passed, the new bill aims to do just that and more.