BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The state could soon announce it will pay off all past due rent accumulated in California due to the pandemic. The news coming as people are still struggling to try and catch up after losing their jobs during the pandemic.
Last year the state put in place a moratorium on evictions to help those most impacted by the pandemic. That stay was extended multiple times with the latest deadline set to expire at the end of this month. While the federal government has said it will not extend the moratorium the state has yet to make a decision.
Governor Gavin Newsom says Californians who have past due rent from 2020 due to the pandemic can rest assured that the state will pay off that debt. But what's not clear is whether California will continue to ban evictions after the state moratorium expires on June 30th.
23ABC spoke with both those who are helping tenants and assisting landlords who say moving past the eviction moratorium is going to be a long and difficult process but there is help on the way.
“What I propose is something in-between, something a little more comprehensive," explained Bakersfield realtor and property owner Tony Ramierz. "They were saying the tenants are supposed to be paying 25 percent of the rent right now. We need to bring that higher.”
Ramierz says he understands some tenants have accumulated up to $12,000 in debt and that is not easy to pay off immediately. But he says his clients have not received any of the state funding for rent yet and he doesn’t believe the eviction moratorium should continue.
"On my client's side, what’s happening is the small mom and pop landlord doesn’t have enough money to be paying for their mortgage because they have to be covering their tenants' rent in other words, right.”
Ramirez adds this is causing a ripple effect. Tenants are facing landlords unable to keep up with rental spaces.
“Having their tenants live in conditions that are not the most adequate because they don’t have money to make repairs. Basic repairs from electrical, plumbing issues, they say 'well I don’t have money. How do you want me to call the plumber or electrician if I don’t have the money because you aren't paying me.'"
But as the state determines if they will extend the ban or not you can stop your recurring debt. If you live in Kern County and you need assistance you can apply to the rent and utility assistance program through the Housing Authority of Kern.
“Our rent and utility assistance program is fully up and running. We are still taking applications," said Housing Authority of Kern Assistant Executive Director Heather Kimmel. "We don’t anticipate the eviction moratorium whether it's extended or if it's lifted to impact the availability of our assistance program.”
Since its launch in March, they’ve assisted 938 families throughout the county and paid out over $5 million in direct assistance.
“It's really emotional when you see the depth of need in our community. When you see how the pandemic has actually impacted the lives of our neighbors. And to be able to offer a program that can help people recover from this pandemic and alieve some of the stress that has been caused by the things that we’ve all experienced over the last year, it's truly an honor to be a part of something that is helping with the recovery from the pandemic.," said Kimmel.
The Housing Authority of Kern says they do plan to see an increase in applications if the moratorium is lifted. Residents can apply at the Housing Authority of Kern website. Officials say its best to sign up as soon as possible as they currently have 3,000 applications in progress.
What else you need to know and do if you too are facing problems with paying rent
One of the first things you need to do is communicate with your landlord. If you anticipate any trouble paying rent, housing advocates recommend approaching your landlord to let them know you're struggling. If you don't communicate, it could make the situation worse. Make sure any agreement you make is in writing.
Keep a log of the payments you make, including the dates and the amount paid. Then identify emergency funds that can help you pay.
Cities, counties, and states have various funds specifically set aside for emergency rental assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. You can call 2-1-1 here in Kern County to learn more about local programs.
Finally, know your rights. Even when the country isn't in the middle of a pandemic, eviction rules differ across states and jurisdictions. The rules in your county might differ from the rules in the county next door.