With the end of a statewide eviction moratorium, California officials are rushing to ensure that tenants with unpaid rent know they can still stay in their homes after that date – but only if they have applied for government assistance.
The state has used billions of federal dollars to pay for up to 18 months of most people’s rent since April 2020, the first full month of the state’s stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus. To qualify, people must earn 80% or less of their region’s median income and be affected by the pandemic – a nondescript requirement almost anyone can meet.
Link: Tenant Protection in California
Until Thursday of this week, state law automatically prohibits landlords from evicting people for unpaid rent. But from Friday, tenants with unpaid rent can only be protected from evictions if they have applied for assistance.
As of Monday, more than 309,000 households have requested assistance and requested nearly $ 3 billion. The state has so far paid nearly $ 650 million to approximately 55,000 households, and they have approved an additional $ 950 million in aid that is currently being disbursed.
That’s important because it means California provided at least 65% of its original $ 1.5 billion allocation from the federal government. If they hadn’t done that, the federal government could have withdrawn some of that money and California probably wouldn’t get anything.
Now, however, California will get even more money – up to $ 1.8 billion, state officials said – in a second round of funding to ensure the state has enough money to continue paying people’s unpaid rent.
The state eviction moratorium ended last month. Last week, federal officials said state and local governments had allocated more than 16.5% of available money to rental support in August, up from 11.1% in July.
In California, there is no deadline to apply for the money. The state will pay off the tenants’ rent debts and they will even pay the rent for the next three months as a precaution. If tenants still can’t pay after that, the state will pay three more months after that. But renters can only get 18 months of assistance under federal regulations.
Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the Ministry of Housing and Community Development, said the state will continue to pay people the rent “as long as we have the money”.
California has to pay a total of $ 5.2 billion for all of this, with the money being split between state and local governments.
“Applying for rent allowance is the best way to protect yourself from eviction,” said Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the Economic, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, during a press conference Monday.
The Los Angeles eviction moratorium ends in two days. Randy Mac will report for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.
However, tenant protection officials fear that many tenants do not know about the protective measures. Tina Rosales, attorney and political attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said some tenants didn’t know they could stop an eviction process simply by completing a request for assistance and many don’t have lawyers to help them. She fears that some will be frightened after the end of the moratorium and “evacuate” themselves.
“Yes, (state law) offers protection, but that protection depends heavily on a legal system that is not tenant-friendly at all,” she said.
State lawmakers added $ 40 million to this year’s budget to pay attorneys to help tenants and homeowners avoid evictions and foreclosures, with pledges to spend an additional $ 40 million over the next two years.
Some state lawmakers, including MP David Chiu, had urged the state’s eviction moratorium to be extended beyond Thursday’s deadline. But Chiu said there was “no consensus in the Capitol” to do so.
Debra Carlton, executive vice president of the California Apartment Association, said the eviction moratorium has violated smaller landlords, many who haven’t received a rental check in more than a year and are struggling to keep up with taxes and insurance bills.
“We are of course asking the state to distribute money faster, which it appears to be doing,” she said.
Heimerich said the government paid nationwide radio and television advertising to educate tenants about the rental assistance program. The state also simplified the application process, which makes it easier for tenants to apply. After a sluggish start, Heimerich said that California is only lagging behind Texas in terms of the amount of aid paid so far.
That could change soon, as Heimerich said he expected the state to process $ 100 million in rental subsidies per week soon.
“We definitely don’t want people to panic because there are still protective measures in place,” said Heimerich. “We want people to know that they need to take more positive, positive action and actually seek discharge to be protected.”
Below are links to the county tenant protection programs in Southern California. City programs may also be available.