California eviction moratorium set to expire Thursday after a year-plus of protection for renters

With California’s eviction moratorium ending this week, renters will no longer be protected from “no cause” evictions.

By Marcos Franco, Managing Editor

The California eviction moratorium is set to expire on Sep. 30 after two extensions by Gov. Gavin Newsom, offering 13 months of protection following the financial impact of the pandemic.

California’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief and Rental Housing Recovery Act — effective Aug. 30, 2020 — prevents landlords from evicting tenants without a legally valid reason. Under state law, tenants are protected against eviction as long as they pay 25 percent of their rent and have provided the landlord a signed declaration demonstrating financial distress.

“I think a lot of people are going to be affected by it [end of eviction moratorium],” said 17 year old psychology major, Narod Berberin. “I know there are a lot of immigrants in Los Angeles and it’s already hard enough to pay rent — as I know first hand.”

The rent relief program covers 100 percent of the outstanding balance of rent and utilities costs accumulated by the renter, dating back to April 1, 2020. The amount is paid to either the renter or landlord depending on who applied first. In order to qualify for rental assistance, tenants income must be at or below 80 percent of the median income for their area. According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income in Los Angeles County during 2019 was $68,044. This means that tenants in Los Angeles must make $54,453.20 or less in order to be eligible.

Colin Beckett, a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union — an advocate group for safe affordable housing and rent control — does not believe that the eviction moratorium was enough to keep tenants protected in the first place.

“Nothing did more over the course of the pandemic to protect tenants from eviction than the almost total closure of eviction courts from March to August 2020,” wrote Beckett in an opinion article from KnockLA. “Rather than serve to shield tenants from eviction, the ‘protections’ that have come into place since merely streamline and seek to legitimize the terms under which people can be evicted.”

Beginning Oct. 1, landlords must apply for rental assistance prior to evicting a tenant for failure of rent payment. Although owners will be able to give tenants a “pay or quit” notice asking them to pay their outstanding rent balance, they will not be able to legally evict renters through the court system until completing the application. If tenants are asked to “pay or quit,” they must apply for rental assistance within 15 days of receiving the notice.

Prior to the moratorium, landlords were able to serve renters a 30 or 60-day eviction notice without a stated reason, commonly known as a “no-cause” eviction. A renter may still be evicted under the moratorium if their actions warrant one of 11 “just cause” reasons, ranging from lease violations to property damage. If a property owner does not go through the legal process of evicting a renter they may face between $1000-$2500 in fines.

Although Los Angeles County does not plan to extend its eviction ordinance for residents, local government agencies are allowed to keep existing orders in place but may not defer rent payments past May 31, 2023.

The LACCD population has struggled with housing insecurities prior to the moratorium, with 20 percent of students having experienced homelessness within the last year according to the California State Assembly Democratic Caucus. Students facing eviction may apply for rental assistance through the California rent relief program as well as receive increased financial aid from their college under AB 2416, a bill requiring institutions to consider housing stability when making a determination of whether they should continue to receive aid.

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