On Thursday, the Judicial Council of California voted 19-1 to end the temporary eviction and foreclosure moratorium that has been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eviction, foreclosure moratoriums to end September 2nd
Under the language of the vote, formal eviction and foreclosure proceedings and action on notices can resume September 2nd. The decision also rolled back Governor Gavin Newsom’s July Executive Order that had placed the end of the moratorium on September 30th, but will not interfere with local and city eviction moratoriums that continue later into the year.
Judicial Council members had originally planned on ending the moratorium in August, but according to California Supreme Court Chief Justice and Judicial Council leader Tani Cantil-Sakauye, they listened to and agreed on the case made by Governor Newsom and state legislators to have a relief plan in place when the moratorium ends to reduce the number of foreclosures and evictions. As the session ends at the end of the month and all passed legislation would be in place by September 1st, a September 2nd date was agreed on.
“In our ongoing conversations with Governor Newsom and the Legislature, we have been responsive to their requests for additional time to develop and enact policy and legislative proposals,” Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement.
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye also noted that a Judicial decision could not be made into legislation, and that the Council’s Thursday vote only interpreted the law.
“The judicial branch cannot usurp the responsibility of the other two branches on a long-term basis to deal with the myriad impacts of the pandemic,” added Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye. “The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate. I urge our sister branches to act expeditiously to resolve this looming crisis.”
If no legislation is made official by the end of the month, roughly 1.7 million renters and hundreds of thousands of home owners could respectively face potential eviction and foreclosure proceedings for missing their monthly payments. Local programs offering rent relief, such as a program in Los Angeles that covered 50,000 households with a few months of rent via CARES Act funding, would only protect a small fraction of the millions of people who would be facing homelessness.
The two legislative proposals
Both the Senate and Assembly currently have plans to give relief to renters and homeowners. The Senate plan would give landlords tax credits equal to the amount of rent being forgiven by tenants who are unable to pay because of COVID-19 and the economic downturn. The Assembly plan would suspend all evictions, foreclosures, and repossessions during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as install long-term foreclosure delays. The proposed law would last for 180 days after Governor Newsom lifts the statewide coronavirus emergency measures.
The Judicial Council’s decision has made approval of a plan by the end of the month critical for the Governor and legislatures, as many don’t want to see a wave of mass homelessness across the state due to people losing their homes.
“Even with many cities protecting people, once September 2nd comes and no deal is in place there is going to b a lot of eviction notices going up across the state,” explained State Capitol employee “Dana” to the Globe. “A lot of Senators and Assembly members have been dreading that, but now, with a date set, it’s suddenly sparked something here.”
“Right now it’s a race against time for a compromise deal. They are most likely going to do it because I know some people who have been working on some of these proposals for months. But now they have to decide on payment forgiveness or tax forgiveness.”
Landlords to regain eviction powers if legislature fails to approve plan
Eviction and foreclosure moratoriums have been in place in California since early spring. While they were initially only supposed to be in place for a few months, the length and severeness of COVID-19 and the number of unemployment cases extended the moratorium several times. Numerous landlords have subsequently been pushed to the brink because the the lost income.
Many landlords expressed hope after the decision on Thursday. Susan Chang, a Los Angeles landlord with nearly half of her renters currently not paying rent, told the Globe that she had been waiting for this day for some time.
“I can’t wait to have my units back from people have been refusing to pay,” exclaimed Chang. “They nearly bankrupted me and I had no recourse. Now it looks like we’re getting that back.”
“I’d of course accept any back payments and allow them to stay as long as they or someone else paid for them. Coronavirus is out there and I’m not a monster. But we had little that we could do, and now, with that power back, we can make the business decisions we have needed to do for months.”
A legislative plan on state evictions and foreclosures is expected to be joined together from the Senate and Assembly plans later this month before the end of the moratorium.