On Thursday, the California legislature passed a new eviction protection plan that will extend the eviction moratorium until June.
Governor Gavin Newsom also indicated Thursday that he will sign the legislation, ensuring the new moratorium end date will go into effect before the current eviction moratorium ends on Sunday.
The new legislation carries over much of the current eviction moratorium but with a few key differences in favor of landlords. Starting February 1st, tenants can qualify for protections as long as they pay 25% of the rent each month or pay it in a lump sum payment by June 30th. Like before, tenants can only qualify for this as long as they sign paperwork attesting that they are facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If not paid, landlords can sue to get the money back in court but cannot sue for eviction.
However, landlords will also now have an important decision for each tenant currently under COVID-19 eviction protection. Landlords can choose to either receive 80% of the unpaid rent from the state as long as they agree to forgive the other 20% and pledge not to evict the tenant for actions made until June 30th, or they can get 25% from the state to protect all tenants from being evicted but then can pursue eviction after June 30th.
In either case, the money the state would pay would come from a $2.6 billion fund approved by Congress for helping pay unpaid rents in California.
Despite some lawmakers calling the extension to last until the end of the year, the extension passed unanimously in the Senate and 71-1 in the Assembly.
Supporters of the extension praised its passage on Thursday, with many in particular approving of finally giving landlords some protections.
“We are painfully aware of the plight that California families are facing as they struggle to pay their rent or mortgages at no fault of their own because of the pandemic that we are in,” noted Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on the Senate floor Thursday. “So today we help Californians keep a roof over their head and keep their heads above water.”
Others noted the help that small landlords will finally be getting.
“I believe it reflects a broad range of interests and protects vulnerable tenants from eviction and gets cash into the hands of small mom-and-pop landlords who have been struggling without their rental income,” said Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas).
Republicans who voted for the extension also noted this large distinction from the September 2020 extension.
“They too have suffered,” said Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen (R-Huntington Beach) on Thursday. “They have gone a year now without any income. They also are trying to put food on the table for their families.”
Criticism of the moratorium extension
However, despite the sweeping extension, many both in and out of the Capitol criticized the extension, including many landlord groups who had fought tooth and nail to avoid foreclosures if the extension had gone on until December 2021.
“Besides the extension, they didn’t listen to landlords,” said Victoria Phan, a ’30-units-and-under’ Los Angeles-based landlord group leader, to the Globe. “Instead of being allowed to do everything legally within our rights, they are telling us ‘Hey, you can either have most of the money you’re owed or you can evict people this summer. You can’t have both.'”
“But there is a giant hole in the plan too. The extension specifically says that, if we take the 80%, they can’t be evicted for what they did up to June 30th. What many places are going to do is wait a month and find another cause to evict them on. I guarantee it. We’re going to see a big bump in evictions in July, but then another one in August. Whoever wrote this completely forgot to include anything about violations not given until after the 30th of June and things like that. There’s so many ways around this.”
Legislators also noted displeasure at the extension, including Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), who had voted the single “no” vote in the Assembly.
“This measure is an excuse for neglecting those staggering problems,” explained the Assemblyman on Thursday. “I am not going to enable that neglect by voting for it.”
Governor Newsom has said that he will sign the bill sometime before the weekend. The extension is expected to be the last such eviction moratorium extension passed due to COVID-19 barring another major outbreak.