SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - California’s eviction moratorium has expired, allowing landlords to file evictions against tenants who fail to pay rent, despite the ongoing pandemic and other economic hardships.
Tenant attorneys fear there will be a deluge of evictions if landlords and tenants don’t know their rights or seek out assistance.
"It’s back to business as usual, I’m sorry to say," tenant attorney Christina Collins with Tobener Ravenscroft, LLP said. "The reality is that we’re going to see a lot of actions being filed."
But that doesn’t necessarily mean people will be kicked out because other protections do exist.
Tenants with unpaid rent can stay in their homes, but only if they have applied for emergency rental assistance.
And landlords are required to prove they’ve exhausted options for rental relief, too.
There is no deadline to apply for the millions of dollars in federal funding still available, and state will pay off any rent that tenants owe up to 18 months.
"I understand that landlords are struggling and probably looking for money that they do deserve," San Francisco renter Morgan Zito said. "But we’re struggling too. We don’t want to be out on the street."
Zito is the master-tenant of a six-bedroom house in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood, and is facing an uphill battle for rent relief.
His $5,000 a month rent is split among six people and despite him working his regular restaurant job, some of his housemates are still unemployed or have moved out.
"It has been difficult," said Zito. "We’ve had unwavering landlords that are unwilling to accept lesser rent."
While an application was submitted for emergency rental assistance, Zito said he has yet to see any money, even after getting approval.
Housing experts say he is not alone and applications, documentation, and language barriers often keep tenants who need the help from getting it.
"Most tenants are still waiting for payment," Collins said. "This confusion and the inefficiency of what’s happened here is going to continue to have a ripple effect."
Those delays and dysfunction are reasons Collins advises struggling renters search for other relief programs through nonprofits, churches, advocacy organizations or even mayors’ offices.
If all else fails, she suggests reaching out to the landlord and attempting to negotiate a resolution.
"If you’ve had a fairly cooperative relationship, that’s a good sign that possibly they don’t want to take the nuclear option so to speak," Collins said. "They may be willing to work with you."
The ban on evictions is still in place in some counties and cities, which prevail if they’re stronger for the tenant.
Alameda County’s moratorium won’t end until 60 days after the it lifts the local health emergency order related to the pandemic.
Berkeley and Oakland both currently have bans that prevent evictions for nonpayment of rent.
But those additional rules don’t exist in counties like Santa Clara, Solano, and cities including San Francisco.
In fact, if rent isn’t paid up by the end of the month, landlords could potentially sue for back rent come November 1.
With that, housing advocates warn of a cascading effect where tenants who have an eviction on their record consequently have a tough time securing future housing.
Zito, who volunteers at a nonprofit that feeds and clothes the homeless, said he isn’t sure what to expect.
"It just makes me really sad," he said. "I work intimately with people who are out there on the street already and I find it quite ironic that the state’s going to put me in a position where I might end up being among them next."