SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — The clock is running out on eviction protections for tenants in California, with the current statewide moratorium set to expire on August 14.
Tenants rights groups and small landlords are watching the state legislature closely to see what action will be taken to prevent a wave of evictions during the ongoing health crisis.
“It’s is a pandemic. We’re living in a history book, so we have to try to have conversations about how to move forward and there’s no easy answer,” Guarionex Ayala said.
Ayala is a tenant who currently benefits from the statewide eviction moratorium. For Ayala nothing about the past five months has been easy. He lost three jobs back in March, he needed all three to afford rent in Pleasanton.
He’s a barber by trade, but also worked for a concert venue and comedy club which have since closed. Unable to pay his rent, he applied for unemployment months ago.
“I sent my paperwork three different times, literally just got my results last week,” Ayala said.
He received his first round of unemployment assistance just in time for Congress to suspend those $600 a week checks. Adding insult to injury, he’s also injured, he tore his Achilles which means he can’t get back to full time work on his feet.
He hasn’t been able to pay rent since he lost work, so his landlord is evicting him.
“Now I’m being hit with a lawsuit from my landlord for back rent, which leads me to believe all he cares about is his bottom line,” Ayala said.
The only stopgap keeping tenants like Ayala housed is a statewide eviction moratorium that expires this Friday.
“We can’t allow a massive wave of evictions, this would be catastrophic for coronavirus spread as well as homelessness,” Assembly Member David Chiu said.
Chiu’s bill AB 1436 is the best shot tenants who can’t pay rent have at staying housed. The bill would put in place an eviction moratorium until April of 2021. To be eligible tenants would have to prove that they’re impacted by COVID-19.
The bill helps landlords too, it offers mortgage forbearance for landlords of small properties for the next 12 months and six months of forbearance for landlords of buildings with five or more units.
“If we don’t pass state law, you’ll see potentially a massive wave of evictions of tenants who will be kicked out onto the streets and landlords who will never get the monies they are owed,” Chiu said.
“I totally sympathize and empathize with tenants right now, it’s just that it’s not always the tenant, that’s in a bad position,” Patty Mayer said.
Mayer’s mother is a small landlord, she wanted to take her rental property off the market permanently back in 2019. Her husband passed away and she no longer wanted to manage the property so she let her tenants know that the plan was for them to vacate in March, but then the pandemic hit and one tenant stayed.
“I don’t think that he was really affected by COVID, but he used it to not move,” Mayer said.
Mayer is now working with Todd Rothbard, an eviction attorney, who says the statewide moratorium is, “on its face, unconstitutional.”
Rothbard filed a writ of mandate arguing the Judicial Council is violating the Separation of Powers provision in the Constitution saying this moratorium denies landlords due process.
Rothbard says for justice to be carried out, landlords need to be able to take their cases to court.
“When you’re telling property owners that they have to allow someone to remain indefinitely without being able to collect money for their property, their property is being taken without just compensation,” Rothbard said.
He worries Chiu’s measure doesn’t do enough to ease the burden on small landlords.
“I appreciate that these people who are advancing this measure may be well-intentioned, I don’t think they’ve seriously thought through the long term consequences,” Rothbard said.
But for tenants like Ayala, inaction means more fail safes falling through.
“I’m honestly in kind of limbo, no man’s land, I’m hoping for a life raft or something, praying about that and seeing what’s going to happen going forward,” Ayala said.
Chiu’s bill is currently in committee, he says the earliest he expects movement on this is August 12.