On August 13, the Judicial Council of California voted 19-1 to end the eviction ban imposed in March for those going through economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. California will allow courts to resume eviction and foreclosure proceedings statewide starting on September 2nd. While many local governments will continue these protections for a bit longer, there is fear over what will happen without the statewide moratorium.
These protections were initially intended to be lifted mid-August, but California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye reluctantly agreed to extend the eviction ban for another two weeks. This buys the Legislature a bit more time to develop policies that will mitigate the negative impacts of ending the protections.
Experts are nervous that the second this moratorium ends, thousands of Californians could lose their homes unless Gov. Gavin Newsom helps develop a solution. Other states who have already lifted a similar eviction ban have experienced an overwhelming number of cases in eviction courts. Many are surprised and worried that in these past 5 months, no clear plan has been developed to prevent a surge in evictions as soon as these protections are lifted. What will happen to tenants that can’t produce months worth of unpaid rent? How will landlords pay their mortgage after not collecting rent? What will relief look like?
Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco made the following statement to KQED responding to the two-week extension: “We are breathing a very quick sigh of relief, but we have a ton of work in front of us. We simply cannot allow a massive wave of evictions to occur in California. It would be catastrophic… The human suffering would be extraordinary.”
The Legislature is considering two potential proposals to mitigate the impact of the eviction ban being lifted. The Senate’s proposal (SB 1410) offers property owners credits for unpaid rent that would lower their dues for state taxes starting in 2024; should they need the money more immediately, they can sell those credits prior to 2024. On the other hand, the Assembly’s proposal (AB 1436) simply extends the current policies protecting property owners from foreclosure and tenants from eviction.
They both pose problems, as the Assembly’s proposal is viewed as a “free rent bill” while the Senate’s proposal would cost the state over $12 million. Likely, the solution would be a combination of these two options, but whatever bill ends up getting passed, it should consider the challenges of both sides. Landlords are struggling to make mortgage payments and keep their property management business afloat, while tenants are struggling to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads.
Backlash over the end of this eviction ban continues, as it will affect Black and Latinx communities throughout the state at an alarming rate. According to data from the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, around 75% of renter households impacted by COVID-related job loss contain at least one person of color. This pandemic is disproportionately affecting California’s minorities in many regards, making this another hit to those communities already struggling.
This pandemic has caused serious economic hardships for millions of Californians that have been furloughed, unemployed, or forced to shut down their businesses. These protections against evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs were imposed to give them some peace of mind knowing they will at least have a roof over their heads during these trying times.
Despite the current surge of the virus in Southern California and the Bay Area, the state has decided the time has come to end this eviction ban. We are living in an unprecedented time where everything around us is changing faster than we could have imagined. There is so much uncertainty about what the future holds right now, including what the state Legislature will do after this moratorium officially ends.