Editorial: Newsom Gives California Tenants A Moratorium On Eviction

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When Governor Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on statewide evictions last week, there was a collective sigh of relief from tenants across the state. At a time when unemployment skyrocketed and incomes plummeted due to the closings of COVID-19, tenants could rest assured that they could keep a roof over their heads.

At least that’s what they thought.

It turns out that Newsom’s decree is not really a moratorium on evictions. It’s a delay on evictions. Landlords can still evict if tenants can’t make rent this month or next, and tenants can be evicted from their homes after May 31.

Far too many people live on California paychecks and can’t make rent if their income goes down, even if it’s only for a few weeks. The economic rescue program approved by Congress last week includes cash payments of $ 1,200 or more for most American households and much higher benefits for the unemployed, but the money has not yet arrived and April rent is due.

How many tenants will be late in a few days? And how many owners will start the eviction formalities? According to Newsom’s fragile executive decree, California is likely to see a wave of evictions as the state attempts to reopen and return to normal after months of establishment.

Another problem is that Newsom’s order does not cover all tenants or stop all evictions. The minimum relief provided by the order is only available to tenants who can demonstrate that they have lost income as a result of the pandemic. It offers no protection to tenants whose owners wish to renovate their housing, remove it from the rental market or move in a family. These tenants could still find themselves struggling to find new accommodation at the worst possible time.

To further complicate matters, Newsom has encouraged cities and counties to enact their own eviction moratoria, and many have done so – including Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco. But the details and qualifications vary by city, creating a patchwork of imperfect protections across the state.

The result, say tenants’ advocates, is that tenants and landlords are confused about what they can and cannot do. Increasingly worrying, the governor’s announcement gave the impression that tenants were receiving more complete relief than that provided for by his decree, which meant that some tenants could unwittingly expose themselves to eviction.

It is dangerous and counterproductive to allow any eviction to occur in the midst of a growing pandemic, when the slowdown in the disease forces people to stay at home. Newsom must enact a real moratorium on evictions that will stop – not just delay – the evictions of all tenants until the end of the emergency.

Under the various eviction moratoriums adopted to date, tenants may have to pay the rent they have missed. It will always be a problem for people living on paychecks, and there is more and more discussion about whether the government should charge or finance rent and mortgage payments. For now, Newsom needs to ensure that tenants can continue to have a stable roof over their heads this month and for the foreseeable future.



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