BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 23ABC News is going in-depth on stories that impact you and our community concerning the eviction moratorium. We're looking at rules in the state that might trump any federal action taken to end the program and how that could impact thousands of renters in Kern County.
The moratorium started on March 27, 2020. It was only supposed to last a few months but was extended several times.
So how does the moratorium work?
The moratorium gives renters protections if they've missed paying rent due to pandemic-related hardships.
Am I Eligible?
Eligible renters can apply for landlords to be reimbursed for 80% of each eligible renter’s unpaid rent between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. The landlord must agree to waive the remaining 20% of unpaid rent for that specific time period. Eligible renters whose landlords choose not to participate in the program may receive 25% of unpaid rent between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
If one or more individuals in your household meet all of the following, you are eligible to apply:
- Have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due to COVID–19; and
- Demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which may include:
- a past-due utility or rent notice or eviction notice;
- unsafe or unhealthy living conditions; or
- any other evidence of such risk, as determined by the program
- Have a household income that is not more than 80% of the Area Median Income
Once the moratorium ends renters will have to repay all of the rent they missed. If a renter can't repay the missed rent landlords are allowed to serve an eviction notice.
So when do these protections end? That's the question.
This week a federal judge struck down the national eviction moratorium leaving some California lawmakers arguing that the move could potentially leave millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority last year when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium. The 20-page order issued by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich says that the protection goes too far, saying “it is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease.”
"The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”
However, those federal policies are not exactly going to apply to Californians. The state created its own eviction moratorium, aimed at protecting renters and landlords. And it takes the place of the federal protections.
California has been playing by its own set of rules when it comes to protecting renters and landlords during the pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB-91 into law in late January. That bill extended the eviction moratorium in California through June 30th, which means, through that time renters can not be evicted if they’ve paid a share of what they owe.
“Protecting millions and millions of people, including tenants, and landlords,” said Newsom at the time.
“SB-91 is in place until the end of June this year. So June 30, 2021,” explained Kaylee Choe, the housing justice outreach coordinator for Faith in the Valley. “As long as renters have paid at least 25 percent of their rent.”
There are also protections for small property owners. The law can pay 80-percent of some tenants’ unpaid rent, but only if the landlord agrees to forgive the remaining 20-percent. If a landlord refuses the deal, the law would pay off 25-percent of tenants’ unpaid rent to make sure they qualify for eviction protections.
The state is funding the relief with $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance money. Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco helped write the bill.
“Surprisingly we have not seen the uptake that we had expected, but we know in many instances this is because Californians just aren’t aware of the fact that this relief exists,” said Chiu.
Assemblyman Chiu says people who are facing evictions that are not related to economic hardship are still continuing. But for people who are facing hardships, he thinks it’s critical that people know not only what their options are but that they could be expiring at the end of June.
“Anyone who hasn’t been able to pay their full rent and hasn’t availed themselves of rental assistance could run into some challenges.”
It's important to note that people who earn more than 80-percent of the median income in their area, are not eligible for relief money. Renters or landlords looking for more information can go to the state’s rent relief website, HousingisKey.com.
Am I Eligible?
If you are a landlord who has one or more eligible renters, you can apply to get reimbursed for 80% of each eligible renter’s unpaid rent between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, if you agree to waive the remaining 20% of unpaid rent for that specific time period.
- All payments must be used to satisfy the renter’s unpaid rent for the period between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021
- Your renters must take steps to verify that they meet eligibility requirements and sign the application
- Your renter’s household income must be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI)
There are discussions taking place in the state’s legislature about extending the moratorium. Chiu believes that it will need to be extended since we’re still coming out of the pandemic. We’ll just have to see what the picture looks like as we get closer to the deadline.
“There are ongoing discussions, I believe that those eviction protections will need to be extended beyond June because obviously. We are still coming out of the pandemic. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are still health concerns," Chiu told 23ABC.