California Renters Get Eviction Break Extended to Fall, Assistance til Spring

With California’s eviction protections set to expire soon, Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders agreed to extend the protection until September 30.

California also will cover 100% of the back rent owed to many low-income residents suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agreement between Newsom and legislators extends state protections for tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent. This three-month extension will provide more time for the state to distribute hundreds of millions of unclaimed rental assistance dollars.

According to Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, a lead negotiator on the agreement, the proposal aims to stave off mass evictions.

“Our housing situation in California was a crisis before COVID, and the pandemic has only made it worse — this extension is key to making sure that more people don’t lose the safety net helping them keep their home,” Atkins explained.

Newsom said that without the extension numerous low-income people could face eviction despite a recovering economy.

The extension aims at “protecting low-income tenants with a longer eviction moratorium and paying down their back rent and utility bills — all thanks to the nation’s largest and most comprehension rental assistance package, which I am eager to sign into law as soon as I receive it,” he explained.

The governor and legislature say it remains essential that the extension is put in place before the current eviction protections expire to give renters deep in debt a clean slate.

“That would provide a real sense of relief for a lot of folks who have been struggling to pay the rent and who are facing the reality that in about a week they, absent actions by the Legislature, would be facing eviction when the July rent comes due,” said Brian Augusta, a legislative advocate for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which represents low-income tenants.

Augusta said there are still questions about what will happen if all the rent relief is not distributed by September 30 or if the fund is depleted before all renters have 100% of their back rent paid.

Currently, the state has sent out only $61.6 million of the $1.4 billion set aside for distribution. This is less than 5% of the total amount allotted.

The rental assistant program proposal will allow checks to be issued directly to renters to cover back rent, whether or not the landlord has chosen to participate.

When evictions resume on October 1 California will put a court process in place that will allow tenants to apply for assistance before they are evicted.

This new court process would last until March 31, 2022.

Newsom originally signed an executive order barring evictions in March 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. Newsom extended the eviction moratorium again in August of 2020.

Opponents strongly disagree

The new extension is not without detractors. Tom Bannon, chief executive of the California Apartment Association, says he is “disappointed” in the extension.

Bannon asserts that the extension would not be necessary “if state and local governments were disbursing rental assistance funds to tenants and housing providers in an expedited manner.”

California Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron said that the proposal is a “temporary fix” because the recovery money and state surplus are not permanent.

The Biden administration recently extended a national eviction moratorium until July 31.