Special To the Vanguard
With the deadline approaching, Governor Newsom on Monday signed a compromise bill he says will protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. These protections apply to tenants who declare an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason.
“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California – but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction,” said Governor Newsom.
The Governor added, “This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic.
“California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market. We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”
On Friday, the Governor, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced an agreement on the legislation, AB 3088, co-authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) and Senators Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas).
Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.
Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.
Not everyone agree with the legislation. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment rallied at the Capitol last week to fight for stronger protections. In a series of tweets, the ACC criticized the compromise bill as “complicated and burdensome for tenants.”
“Gavin Newsom is literally about to make a deal that could throw millions of Californians out of their homes in the coming months amidst a pandemic – most of them poor, Black and Latinx. If that’s not cold-blooded racism, we’re not sure what is,” they tweeted.
They continued: “The proposal being floated is complicated and burdensome for tenants. It allows some evictions to begin again as soon as Sept 2, w/ others staggered out over months. Let’s ask ourselves, who do we think will be evicted first?”
The groups they believe will be singled out: vulnerable people of color.
The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.
Additional legal and financial protections for tenants include:
- Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide tenant additional time to respond to landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.
- Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if rental agreement was negotiated in a different language.
- Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.
- Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.
- Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 – January 31, 2021.
- Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.
Existing local ordinances can generally remain in place until they expire and future local action cannot undermine this Act’s framework. Nothing in the legislation affects a local jurisdiction’s ability to adopt an ordinance that requires just cause, provided it does not affect rental payments before January 31, 2021.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated low-income families across the state and right here in the City of Sacramento,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “The eviction protections signed into law today will protect some of the most vulnerable – those who have lost income or suffered other unimaginable hardships in these past few months — from falling into homelessness.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed added, “Protecting people from eviction has been critical from Day One of the COVID crisis, when it became clear that this pandemic was going to threaten our residents and our economies like nothing we have ever seen. People are living in fear of losing their homes because they have lost their jobs, seen their wages cut, or have been forced to close their businesses.”