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Statement on California Eviction Protections during the Pandemic as of August 28, 2020

Western Center and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation co-sponsored AB 1436 (Chiu) this year to ensure tenants would not be evicted because of their inability to pay rent during a global pandemic that has had devastating economic consequences. AB 3088, which was announced today, includes eviction protections for tenants who cannot afford to pay rent. These protections are critical and we urge the Legislature to pass the bill and the Governor to sign it.

However, AB 3088 is only part of the solution. It is a needed but temporary fix to protect tenants from eviction who are struggling to afford rent. We still need a long-term solution to the pandemic’s financial consequences for tenants, small landlords, and affordable housing providers. Our organizations are committed to working with stakeholders, the Legislature, and the Governor to ensure that new legislation to provide the long-term fix is ready to be enacted by the end of January.

While AB 3088 will help protect tenants from being evicted for nonpayment of rent during the COVID crisis, it is not a complete solution to the looming eviction crisis. Many tenants will be unprotected once the Judicial Council’s Emergency Rule 1 is repealed on September 1st, which put a pause on almost all eviction proceedings.

Evictions other than those for nonpayment of rent—including evictions where the landlord provides no reason — will move forward starting September 2nd. In announcing the repeal of the Rule, the Chief Justice reminded the Governor and the Legislature that it is their role to make policy in this area, not the court’s.

As we continue to struggle to contain COVID-19, allowing any evictions other than those necessary for safety is dangerous and contrary to public health directives. 

Like the COVID crisis itself, the removal of Emergency Rule 1 will disproportionately impact Black and Brown renters, exacerbating the state’s stark economic and health disparities, and impeding a just and equitable economic recovery. It will also lead to voter disenfranchisement in an election that will rely almost entirely on mail-in ballots, which require a reliable address.

Western Center and CRLAF will monitor the impacts of evictions once Emergency Rule 1 is lifted and AB 3088, if enacted, takes effect—specifically how evictions impact tenants with low incomes. We will bring forth additional proposals as warranted to ensure tenants are protected.

A COVID-induced eviction “tidal wave” in California can be prevented, but it will require the Governor, Legislature, and Courts to coordinate and act quickly.

The California Judicial Council, the head of the state’s court system, announced its intention to repeal the temporary COVID-emergency rule pausing eviction proceedings. This comes after months of back and forth about how the state can best prevent Californians from being forced into homelessness because of their inability to pay rent in the midst of a pandemic. The Council delayed a vote to repeal the rule once, in June, but stated that the rule was only meant as a temporary stop-gap until lawmakers come up with a more permanent solution.

The Council is right—the rule is not a permanent fix; the Legislature and Governor must act swiftly to establish a longer-term solution to protect tenants and small landlords. The fate of hundreds of thousands of Californians is in the hands of the Governor and Legislature; in the meantime, ending the Judicial Council rule now with only weeks’ notice and allowing a flood of evictions just as COVID cases are spiking will cause needless and substantial harm to Californians who cannot pay rent.

Several bills are currently before the Legislature to protect renters and mobile home park residents from eviction for being unable to pay rent during the pandemic, provide economic relief to landlords and affordable housing providers through mortgage forbearance and financial assistance, and provide a moratorium on all evictions for the duration of the COVID emergency. It is crucial that the Legislature be thoughtful and deliberative to get the details right and not rush to meet an arbitrary deadline.

We need the Legislature to deliver and the Governor to sign legislation that provides the strongest eviction protections in the short term so that people can continue to shelter at home to control the spread of the virus, and meaningful long-term relief for tenants, small landlords, and affordable housing providers. 

We see three options that will protect renters and small landlords right now:

  1. The Judicial Council can keep the rule in place a little longer, instead of pulling the plug before the end of the legislative session.
  2. The Governor can issue an Executive Order to extend the Judicial Council rule until a legislative solution is enacted.
  3. The Legislature can pass an urgency bill to extend the rule until they have time to enact a permanent fix.

One of the above options MUST happen by September 2nd. Doing nothing will be a disaster for tenants and for the public health of the state.

The Judicial Council acted responsibly and in line with the urgency of the moment when it enacted its emergency eviction rule. Now the Governor and Legislature need to push the legislative process. If courts reopen for evictions as usual, even for a brief period, the impacts will be profound due to the number of cases already filed and the number of default judgments that will move forward on California’s extremely swift eviction timeline.

California leaders are not at the whim of forces beyond their control, but California renters are at the whim of our leaders’ ability to rise to the moment. If a wave of evictions happens in California in the wake of COVID, it will be because of inadequate action by the Governor and Legislature, and a lack of coordination with legislative deadlines by the Judicial Council.

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“Advocacy groups, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Dream Corps, believe the Temporary Emergency Bail Schedule will save lives for those in jail because, instead of placing inmates into a small cell and risking the spread of COVID-19, they are released and allowed to distance themselves from others.”

https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/08/people-fail-to-appear-in-court-but-judge-lets-them-go-on-zero-bail-because-of-pandemic/

Rent is coming due in California: ‘Two weeks to avoid complete catastrophe’

“Tenant advocates prefer Chiu’s uniform statewide plan, which would protect residents regardless of what local regulations exist or whether their landlord is willing to enter an agreement. Anya Lawler, who lobbies on behalf of the Western Center on Law & Poverty, said the bill’s mortgage protections for landlords could help the state avoid a foreclosure crisis such as the one during the last recession.”

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Eviction ban to end in California. And a crisis looms if lawmakers don’t act

“But Madeline Howard, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, says SB 1410 doesn’t go far enough. Tenants who for any reason don’t come to an agreement with their landlord could still face eviction and homelessness. Policy advocates are proposing an amendment to the bill which they say would close its loopholes and keep vulnerable tenants safe.”

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Thousands of Californians Face Homelessness With Eviction Freeze Set to End

“Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, spoke at a press conference held by Ethnic Media Services. In her presentation she detailed some mechanics of the Judicial Council’s rules, and she explained how its rescission would hurt California renters.

“We’re extremely concerned about this, as the Legislature and Governor have not yet acted to put something in place that will prevent the massive wave of evictions that will begin when this rule is lifted”

Thousands of Californians Face Homelessness With Eviction Freeze Set to End

Vote planned to end California’s eviction ban

“It still leaves many Californians with no local protections,” said Madeline Howard, a fair housing and eviction defense attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Since Gov. Newsom’s eviction ban expired on May 31, the Judicial Council rule is the only statewide eviction ban in California.

“The Judicial Council rule is the only thing that is stopping a massive number of evictions from happening,” she said. “It’s a really scary prospect.”

Vote planned to end California’s eviction ban