“Madeline Howard says the action may be too little too late. She’s a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “It’s inevitable that many people who needed assistance at this point have already been harmed, have already been evicted from their homes, so it’s going to be too late.”
The 2021 California legislative season is over, and Governor Newsom has signed the bills that will become law. Many Western Center priorities made it past the governor’s pen, including groundbreaking legislation like SB 62, which makes California an international leader in the fight to end exploitation of people working in the garment industry, and SB 65, which implements proven interventions to lower California’s unacceptably high mortality rate for Black and Indigenous people who give birth here.
Below is our slate of co-sponsored bills that were signed by the governor this year, as well as those we plan to bring back next year.
SB 62 – The Garment Worker Protection Act seeks to end wage theft in the California garment industry and ensure decent wages for California garment workers by holding California fashion brands to a higher standard of responsibility for the labor of garment workers.
SB 65 – The California Momnibus is an innovative and comprehensive piece of legislation that reimagines perinatal care in order to close existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity within the state.
AB 461 – CalWORKs Self Employment: Creates a more accessible pathway for CalWORKs recipients to choose self-employment as a work activity. This bill is timely as the state begins to rebuild its economy, which will heavily rely on the talents and creativity of Californians with an entrepreneurial spirit.
AB 326 – Removes the sunset clause to permanently extend the Consumer Protection Program, which awards advocacy fees to any person or organization that represents the interests of consumers and has made a substantial contribution on regulations, orders, or decisions, within the Department of Managed Health Care.
AB 1020 – Enforcement of the Hospital Fair Pricing Act: We hope that passage of this bill means patients no longer need lawyers to benefit from the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. This bill rose directly out of our legal services partners’ experience in trying to enforce the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. Major components include prohibiting hospitals from selling debt to debt buyers unless they meet all the current standards applicable to debt collectors and agree to take a bill back if the patient should have gotten financial assistance, Medi-Cal, or another payor for their bill; requiring debt collectors and debt buyers to also send patients applications for financial assistance; and increasing eligibility for patients for financial assistance from 350% of the poverty level to 400%.
AB 1355 (2-Year Bill Extending Into Next Year) – Expands Independent Medical Reviews to all Medi-Cal beneficiaries to ensure more beneficiaries can access medically necessary care. Also improves the state’s fair hearing process.
SB 644 (2-Year Bill Extending Into Next Year) – Allows California’s unemployment department to share information with Covered California when someone applies for or loses benefits to help individuals apply for Covered California or Medi-Cal.
AB 832 – Extended the temporary halt on evictions for nonpayment of rent until September 31, 2021. The bill also created additional tenant protections in court that may halt an eviction if the tenant qualifies and has an approved application for rent relief. For more information, please refer to our COVID-19 tenant relief fact sheet. To apply for financial assistance please visit housingiskey.com.
AB 838 – Enforcement Response to Housing Complaints: Prohibits local code inspection agencies in California from implementing restrictions or preconditions before responding to tenant habitability complaints. The bill specifically prohibits code enforcement agencies from refusing to inspect a unit based on unreasonable conditions, including on the basis that the tenant is behind on rent, is alleged to be in violation of their lease, or is currently in an unlawful detainer (eviction) or other legal dispute with the landlord.
AB 1304 – Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: Strengthens requirements for cities and counties to analyze and proactively address fair housing issues as part of their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. The bill requires the housing element to include an analysis of how the jurisdiction’s inventory of housing affirmatively furthers fair housing; requires that in assessing contributing factors to fair housing issues, jurisdictions look through both a local and a regional lens, take race into account, and examine historical context; and requires jurisdictions to state explicit goals, objectives, and policies related to affirmatively furthering fair housing.
SB 91 – Expanded protections provided by AB 3088 (2020) and established a statewide rental relief program that pays up to 100% of arrears, prospective rent, and utilities for households experiencing COVID-19 financial hardships. The bill also extended a temporary halt on evictions for nonpayment of rent until June 2021. SB 91 prohibited landlords from charging or attempting to charge late fees and explicitly prohibits the sale or assignment of any unpaid COVID-19 rental debt.
La defensora de políticas de Western Center, Tina Rosales, escribió un artículo de opinión explicando la necesidad de nuestro proyecto de ley copatrocinado, AB 1487, para garantizar un fondo para los inquilinos que necesitan ayuda para acceder a representación durante los procedimientos de desalojo.
“While other lawmakers and groups support the bill, such as the Western Center on Law & Poverty and the Housing Now Coalition, many also quickly came out in opposition, including many landlords and property development groups.”
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:
- The Judicial Council can keep the rule in place a little longer, instead of pulling the plug before the end of the legislative session.
- The Governor can issue an Executive Order to extend the Judicial Council rule until a legislative solution is enacted.
- 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.
“Sasha Harnden, housing policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the council’s ruling is an important step.
“This is the type of straightforward, broad protection that we have been wanting to see from our leaders to give people comfort while we address the massive economic impacts of this crisis,” he said.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Case marks beginning of enforcement measures for new tenant protections
DALY CITY — A Daly City landlord has withdrawn eviction notices for dozens of families after a tenant association, Familias Unidas en Daly City (Familias), filed a lawsuit to halt the evictions. The notices were sent just after the legislature passed AB 1482, otherwise known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which protects roughly eight million tenants in California from unreasonable rent increases and unfair evictions. The families will now remain in their homes over the holidays and enjoy greater stability in the future.
Shortly after the passage of the Tenant Protection Act, the landlord issued notices to at least 25 tenant families demanding that they move out for no reason. Those who were threatened with eviction include low-income families who have lived in their apartments for decades, elderly individuals, and people with disabilities who rely on fixed incomes. The notices initially demanded that tenants leave their homes in the middle of the school year, right before the holidays, even though tenants had paid rent on time and complied with their leases.
“With the passage of the Tenant Protection Act, California tenants finally have some security knowing that they will not be displaced from their homes without a fair reason,” said Madeline Howard, attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “We couldn’t stand by while this landlord violated new protections so flagrantly and with such callous disregard for the tremendous hardship their actions would cause.”
Familias’ filed a lawsuit to halt the evictions, making it the first affirmative lawsuit filed by tenants to enforce new protections under the Tenant Protection Act. Shortly after the suit was filed, the landlord began negotiations and eventually withdrew the notices.
This case highlights the value of California’s new renter protections, as well as the need for steadfast enforcement to ensure tenants can access these new rights.
“This is something of a bellwether for what we may see in the coming months,” said Shirley Gibson, attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. “It’s important to show how the Tenant Protection Act is playing out on the ground, and for tenants to know that with its passage, when they stand up for their rights, they can win and remain in their homes.”
Courtney McKinney: cmckinney[at]wclp.org
Shirley Gibson, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, SGibson[at]legalaidsmc.org
Madeline Howard, Western Center on Law & Poverty, mhoward[at]wclp.org
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto is a nonprofit law firm offering free legal services that improve the lives of low-income families throughout the Bay Area. CLSEPA pursues lasting change for our clients using multiple, innovative strategies, including community education, individual legal advice and representation, legal assistance to community groups, policy advocacy, and impact litigation.
The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County has been fighting social injustice through civil legal advocacy for people living in poverty since 1959. The vision of LASSMC is for every person to have the basic necessities of life, including safe affordable housing, access to health care, economic security, secure immigration status, an appropriate education and freedom from violence and abuse. LASSMC strives to empower people to overcome the causes and effects of poverty so they can participate in their community with dignity and respect. We seek to remove barriers related to poverty, disability, race, language, age, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status through community education, legal representation, systemic advocacy and collaboration with community partners.
Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center.