Coronavirus: Newsom bans some California evictions

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday ordered a temporary statewide ban on
some evictions through May, as the coronavirus pandemic fuels
unemployment and many tenants anticipate struggling to pay
rent.

But many tenant advocates criticized the new order, saying
landlords could easily circumvent the restrictions.

The order applies to renters directly affected by the
coronavirus pandemic, and requires tenants to declare in writing
they have lost work, fallen ill or been forced to care for family
members. Landlords are prohibited from removing residents for
non-payment of rent through May 31, and bans law enforcement and
courts from carrying out evictions.

“It does not preempt any local ordinances that go deeper or
farther, but it is an overlay for the entire state of
California,” Newsom said at a Friday press conference.

Housing advocates have pushed for a statewide ban, and some
property owners have argued a broader ban would be easier to manage
than the patchwork of eviction moratoriums being passed by
California counties and cities. More than 60 jurisdictions across
the state — including San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco —
have moved to protect renters since the governor granted localities
the power last week.

The statewide shelter-in-place order has kept many workers from
drawing paychecks this month. The limited moratorium is part of an
evolving package of subsidies and supports for the state’s
housing industry. Many are hoping for more federal relief, as well
as state action, to prevent homelessness and loss of income.

The new ban enhances Newsom’s March 16 order, which empowered
local governments to reign in evictions.

“People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home
because of the spread of COVID-19,” Newsom said at the time.
“Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices
– but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I strongly
encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect
Californians.” Related Articles

Housing advocates found little comfort in the latest order.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said the governor’s
order “does not meet the task at hand” and said he would pursue
a bill with more sweeping protections.

Under the new order, landlords are allowed to terminate leases
for non-payment and other, legal causes, but are banned from
removing tenants during the state of emergency. Advocates say this
could open the door for landlords to file eviction papers, and wait
for the courts to reopen.

“The last thing we need is a wave of evictions immediately
after the emergency ends,” Wiener said, “and that is exactly
what this executive order allows.”

Other housing advocates threatened protests and rent strikes as
payments come due April 1. The Affordable Housing Network in Santa
Clara County advised renters unable to afford rent because of the
pandemic to organize.

Christina Livingston, executive director of the Alliance of
Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), said the governor
needs to take bolder action this month. “If vacant homes aren’t
opened people will occupy them,” she said. “If housing security
is not guaranteed we will call for a general rent strike.”

Some advocates said the order would alleviate at least some
concerns. Leora Ross, associate director of the Housing Leadership
Council of San Mateo County, said the measure would protect
low-wage workers commuting into the region. Many renters in the Bay
Area, she said, “are one paycheck away from being
unsheltered.”

The California Apartment Association, a consortium of large
property owners with roughly 1.5 million units in the state, has
asked members to freeze rent increases, stop most evictions and
waive late fees for tenants hit by the pandemic.

“The governor has done a great job threading the needle at
120-miles per hour,” said association CEO Tom Bannon. “We can
live with this.”

The restrictions will offer protections to renters in
communities where protections were weak or didn’t.

In the Bay Area, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin and
Sonoma counties have passed eviction moratoriums, as well as
several cities on the Peninsula and East Bay. The Santa Clara
County Superior Court has deemed evictions proceedings
non-essential, and has temporarily suspended hearings.

Many landlords are still paying mortgages, taxes and utility
bills, with small profit margins, Bannon said. The order will give
some owners reassurance that the government will not waive rents,
he said.

Sid Lakireddy, president of the California Rental Housing
Association, said the state needs to also support mortgage relief
for landlords. Many smaller property owners could face problems
with their bankers if rents  fall short and they are unable to
make their debt payments.

“We don’t want the buck to stop with us,” he said.

Staff writers Robert Salonga and Kerry Crowley contributed to
this report.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Coronavirus: Newsom bans some California evictions