California governor signs eviction relief bill amid virus

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that temporarily bans evictions for people who have not paid their rent because of the coronavirus.

Posted: Sep 1, 2020 10:45 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Californians who haven’t paid their rent since March 1 because of the coronavirus can stay in their homes through at least Jan. 31 under a new state law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed late Monday — one day before statewide eviction protections are set to expire.

The pandemic has devastated California’s economy, causing millions of people to lose their jobs as the government ordered businesses to close for months to slow the spread of the disease. In April, the Judicial Council of California — the rule-making authority for the state’s court system — halted most eviction and foreclosure proceedings during the pandemic.

But those protections end on Wednesday, meaning landlords could resume eviction proceedings on tenants who haven’t paid their rent.

Monday — the final day of the legislative session — state lawmakers approved a bill that would ban evictions for tenants who did not pay their rent between March 1 and Aug. 31 because of the pandemic. The bill would also ban evictions for those same tenants through Jan. 31, but only if the tenants pay at least 25% of the rent owed during that time.

Newsom signed the bill about an hour after lawmakers passed it. In a news release, Newsom called the law “a bridge to a more permanent solution” from the federal government.

“We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation,” Newsom said.

The legislation does not forgive the missed payments. Tenants will still owe the money. Landlords can ask a judge to order the tenant to pay it back, but they can’t ask a judge for an eviction solely for not paying rent in full.

Tenants would have to sign a document, under penalty of perjury, that says they have experienced a financial hardship directly related to COVID-19. Wealthy tenants — defined as earning a salary of at least $100,000 or 130% of the area’s median income, whichever is higher — would have to show proof that they cannot pay.

The bill does not halt foreclosures for landlords whose tenants have stopped paying rent, but it does extend some state protections to rental properties of four units or less — protections previously only available to owner-occupied homes.

“It’s often said a sign of compromise is both side are dissatisfied, and that’s certainly true here,” Assemblyman David Chiu said, a Democrat from San Francisco and author of the bill. “This bill is an imperfect and necessary solution to an enormous crisis.”

Patricia Mendoza lives in Imperial Beach with her two children. She said she lost her job in April and has had trouble paying her rent ever since. Her asthma puts her more at risk for the coronavirus, making it difficult for her to find a job. She said she doesn’t think she’ll be able to afford 25% of her $1,500 per month rent over the next five months to qualify for eviction protection.

“This is not my fault. I’m a hard-working mom. I’ve never asked for help,” said Mendoza, who has been advocating for eviction protections as part of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “I’ve never thought of myself as being poor. We’re not rich. I”m a working mom, we’re not poor. Now I see myself as: We’re poor.”

Ron Kingston, a lobbyist representing multiple landlord groups, said the bill is flawed because it does not require most tenants to verify they have suffered a financial hardship because of the coronavirus. He said the pandemic has been hard on landlords, too, many of whom could go more than a year without receiving any rent payments.

“That creates a really difficult situation,” he said

Chiu said the bill is the best lawmakers could do while mustering the two-thirds vote needed to make the bill take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature. He has pledged to work on the issue again when lawmakers return to work in January.

Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas of Fresno, who voted for the bill, said that when lawmakers return next year, they should consider approving a tax credit for landlords who were paid just 25% of the rent they were owed. A similar proposal introduced earlier this year failed to pass the state Assembly.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3563578

Reported Deaths: 51953
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119089421328
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2862912816
Orange2610223904
San Diego2596413271
Santa Clara1104221777
Kern102627826
Fresno952021443
Sacramento931801472
Alameda804961241
Ventura77534844
San Joaquin665691101
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus56024946
Tulare47784758
Monterey42138328
San Mateo38922515
San Francisco34213410
Santa Barbara31763409
Solano30024164
Merced28915397
Sonoma28063298
Imperial26888591
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15436209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12816185
Shasta10972174
Butte10941160
El Dorado9095100
Napa901469
Sutter884597
San Benito575959
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Nevada395274
Tuolumne394659
Mendocino379643
Amador345741
Humboldt318033
Lake315341
Glenn222023
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128737
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
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