The statewide eviction moratorium, set in place by the Judicial Council in April, has been placed on notice for expiration next month following an announcement last Friday by California Supreme Court Chief Justice and Judicial Council leader Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
An end of the moratorium with few replacement protections
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye noted that the Council “will soon consider rescinding temporary emergency rules” that “suspended court actions on evictions and judicial foreclosures during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the the end of the eviction moratorium coming as soon as August 14th.
The Council is deciding on such changes due to Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature proposing various tenant and landlord protections, including many blanket protections proposed in the $100 billion California stimulus plan.
A lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation challenging the eviction moratorium against the Judicial Council was also cited by many lawmakers and legal experts as a possible factor in the Council’s decision.
“The remedies are best left to the legislative and executive branches of government,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye on Friday. “I want to give the two branches enough notice that the council will very soon resume voting to terminate these temporary orders.”
While some measures can still protect tenants from being evicted outright, most notably Governor Newsom’s Executive Order banning evictions statewide until September, the Judicial Council allowing their ban to lapse means that there is no more broad eviction protection safety net in case other branches fail to put new measures in place. It also means that landlords can now file and do everything short of an actual eviction.
“After August 14th, any tenant in California behind on rent are going to be on notice and at the mercy of new laws guaranteeing protection,” said homeless counselor Jane McCutchen to the Globe. “It’s telling hundreds and thousands of people across California that they may be homeless.”
Hundreds of thousands of people could lose their homes after the end of the moratorium
Opponents of the Judicial Council’s possible decision in the next few weeks have noted that any evictions allowed now will only hurt California, as it will bring in a large wave of newly homeless people, most notably in places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“I was disappointed to learn that … the Judicial Council of the state may soon vote to end its statewide eviction moratorium as early as next month,” stated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a press conference. “I agree with California’s Chief Justice that our state legislature should act. But the reality is that these measures need more time to pass. And the insecurity that getting rid of the eviction moratorium would give all the renters in this state would be very very bad.”
In a UCLA report published in May, researchers noted that around 365,000 households in Los Angeles alone may face eviction due to tenants not having jobs or falling behind in rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic downturn. Nearly 600,000 workers alone in LA are out of work with no unemployment benefits.
Statewide, California is looking at over a possible 1 million evictions in total if all protections are dropped and if all landlords pursue evictions.
“This would make California the homeless capitol of the world,” added McCutchen. “Some landlords could adjust rents or extend some forgiveness, but the majority won’t. We’ve been seeing this happen on a small-scale for years with rising rents forcing people out and contributing to the homeless crisis.”
“If we allow this to happen we will have a homeless crisis on steroids here. Undocumented workers barely making it will be forced out, as they are one of the main groups affected. That means ICE might swoop in.”
“A lot of low-paid workers may not be in or around major cities after this, and basic services could become worsened because of it. A lot of people I help also live in their cars. We might see a flood of people suddenly having to find places to park in LA and the Bay area and San Diego. This is worst case, but now it’s more possible than ever.”
With Newsom’s Executive Order only possibly protecting the moratorium and two bills currently in the process of being passed in the Legislature, the delayed rent bill SB 1410 and AB 1436, a bill which could delay eviction until mid 2021, proponents of eviction have rallied around the likely Judicial Council decision.
Landlords and building owners celebrate likely Judicial Council decision
Landlords and building owners, many of whom are facing financial distress and lapsed mortgages of their own, have already fought back against the moratorium, such as the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles suing the city of Los Angeles in June over unfairly targeting landlords with pro-moratorium decisions.
“If I don’t get the usual rent amounts soon, we can’t make paying the mortgage. In August, part of our social security checks will actually have to go towards that,” said Los Angeles landlord Susan Chang to the Globe earlier this month. “No one ever wants to feel sorry for a landlord. They think we’re just in it for profit.”
Susan added in an e-mail on Wednesday that “[Landlords] now have a fighting chance to survive. If we aren’t there with available units, it doesn’t matter how many people are saved from eviction. If we have to close our complexes, that’s people out on the street no matter what.”
The moratorium, originally expected to expire 90 days following the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, is now scheduled to have a vote in the next few weeks over the moratorium ending on August 14th.