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News Too Real 8-31-21 Part 2: California's eviction moratorium still requires renters to take action

By ONME Newswire

In this episode of News Too Real Part 2: Will the eviction moratorium save renters and landlords?, producer host, Julia Dudley Najieb reviews the immediate actions renters must take before the September 30 California eviction moratorium deadline approaches; once court filings proceed, renters have less leeway to workout such details with their landlords. The key is communicating with one's landlord to clarify the options and/or make the declaration of hardship immediately due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Many Black and Brown renters in California still face major barriers, such as access to the internet to complete the county or city provided COVID-19 rental relief, and there is the issue of not knowing about the local rental assistance programs and their pending deadlines



In Part 2, Francisco Dueñas reviews the challenges California tenants are facing with landlords and with access to the rent relief funds.


Duenas is the executive director for Housing Now!, a California, statewide housing justice advocacy coalition. He was previously the director of Housing Campaigns for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).


Prior to joining ACCE, Duenas was the director of Diversity and Inclusion for Lambda Legal, a national LGBT Impact litigation organization. He has also served on the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission.

"In California, we are seeing the same across the country; there are tenants who have applied for rental assistance in March and still have not seen any funds come to them," said Duenas. "There are challenges just with notification; many tenants do not know if their landlord has responded to the request to participate (in the rental relief options.)"


Up until the end of the June, landlords needed to participate in the rental relief program with the tenant in California, but that is no longer the case, according to Duenas. This means that a tenant can ask for rental relief, whether the landlord applies for the assistance or not. A landlord can also apply to receive rental relief if a tenant has moved--they, too, can get assistance for back rent.


It was also unfortunate that California did not take into consideration the cost of living in different areas of the state; instead, they used an allocation formula to disperse the funds using general population numbers. They did not use the numbers of low income renters, nor did they take into consideration the cost of housing in a particular areas.


Finally, Duenas said that application processes are not long enough for people to find out about the program and apply in less than 30 days; In Los Angeles County, the application period was a total of 30 days, which included the 30-day period to let residents know the program was available--a lot of people have not heard about the COVID-19 rental relief assistance program.


 

California Eviction Moratorium; how it works


Here is some resourceful information for tenants experiencing COVID-19-related financial distress. These eviction laws extend the protections from “no cause” evictions, and makes financial assistance available to financially distressed qualifying landlords and tenants.


Despite these protections, tenants still have an obligation to pay their unpaid rent. As such, the tenant will still owe back rent to their landlord. The laws only prevent the landlord from evicting a tenant who is unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 financial distress. Beginning November 1, 2021, landlords can take tenants to small claims court to recover unpaid rent debt regardless of how much the tenant owes.


Here is what you need to know:

If you were unable to pay all or some of your rent between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020

  • If your landlord gives you a notice to "pay or quit," they must provide a notification which explains your rights and obligations. (A notice to "pay or quit" is a notice from your landlord that gives you a certain amount of time to pay the outstanding rent you owe or vacate your home.)

  • You cannot be evicted IF you return a declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress, signed under penalty of perjury, and returned within 15 business days of receiving a notice to "pay or quit."

  • Your landlord must provide this to you to complete and sign, and it must be in the language of your rental agreement if you entered into your rental agreement on or after September 1, 2020.


It is very important that you provide the signed declaration within 15 business days or an eviction proceeding may be filed against you.


  • If your household income is more than 130% of the median household income in your county and more than $100,000, your landlord may demand proof of your COVID-19 related hardship be provided to support your declaration. There are several things you can use to satisfy this requirement, such as a tax return, pay stubs, and a statement from your employer, among other things.

  • If you are unable to provide the declaration to your landlord within 15 business days, you may still submit the declaration to the court for similar protections if you have a "good reason" for not providing it.

  • "Good reasons" include mistakes, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect as interpreted in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

If you were unable to pay all or some of your rent between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021

  • All of the same rights and obligations above apply.

  • In addition, by September 30, 2021, you must pay at least 25% of the rent due during the period of September 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

  • You may do this by paying at least 25% each month, or by paying a lump sum equaling 25% of your rent during the time period, or by some other means.

The key thing to remember is that - by September 30, 2021 - you must pay 25% of the rent due between September 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.


Other Things You Need to Know

  • Until October 1, 2021, a landlord can only evict a tenant if they provide a legally valid reason.

  • It is illegal for a landlord to give a tenant a 30- or 60-day eviction notice without a stated reason. This is commonly known as a "no-cause" eviction.

  • The stated reason must match one of the valid reasons allowed by the law, a "just cause" eviction.

  • Existing local government eviction ordinances may remain in place until they expire, but they may not defer rent obligations beyond May 31, 2023.

  • Landlords who do such things as lock tenants out, remove personal property or shut of utility services to evict a tenant, rather than going through the required court process, could faces fines of between $1,000 and $2,500. These penalties are in effect until October 1, 2021.

  • If you believe you have been unlawfully evicted or if you need legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. If you need low- or no-cost legal help, visit www.lawhelpca.org and/or Tenant Resources for additional resources.

Fact Sheet: New Protections and Guidelines for Tenants English



 

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