The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to extend the local eviction moratorium, shielding renters who are financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic from losing their homes through September 30.
But renters in other parts of California are not protected from eviction. And that could lead to a looming eviction crisis, according to Tina Rosales, a policy advocate from Western Center on Law & Poverty.
“If the state doesn't extend the ban for those tenants, then we're going to have a lot of people who are evicted when there's billions of dollars in the bank waiting to be released to landlords for the purpose of preventing that exact problem,” she tells KCRW.
Rosales points out that while Governor Newsom and legislative leaders tentatively agreed to pay back rent to property owners with federal coronavirus relief, strong opposition is holding up the pandemic-related order. “[The] tentative agreement would extend the eviction protections until September 30 and give landlords 100% compensation for rental arrears from April 2020 as well as prospective rent. Unfortunately, landlords’ advocates are blocking the compromise from being voted on with only a week before the current law expires.”
Critics of the eviction moratorium say the state government should be judicious with rent relief. According to the California Apartment Association, financial assistance should be given to people with verifiable financial hardship from the pandemic, noting some are taking advantage of the eviction ban. “We’re talking about people who had the ability to pay and/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 in the new legislation.”
But Rosales believes the narrative of renters’ abuse of the system is exaggerated. She says the majority of tenants across the state are going out of their way to pay rent.
“They're sacrificing things like medication and food. And they only access the rental forgiveness program as a last resort when they've exhausted all other funds,” Rosales says. “I've litigated unlawful detainers in Los Angeles County even during the pandemic. And I can tell you that not once did I ever hear of a case where a tenant refused to pay their rent just to game the system.”
Tenants are also struggling to access rent relief partly because the application is too complicated and time-consuming.
“It takes up a lot of time. [The California Department of Housing and Community Development] is taking steps to address those concerns. They've simplified the application,” Rosales says. “They're working on education campaigns. They're increasing language access, and they're also increasing landlord participation, which was lagging.”
Even if LA County allows the eviction moratorium to expire after September 30, Rosales argues local officials should find a way to protect renters. “We still don't think that tenants should be evicted when there are funds necessary that can be exhausted. We'd like all those funds to be exhausted before proceeding.”