Tenant Info: The Government Response to Evictions During this Pandemic
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By Attorney Daniel Wayne & his legal assistant Zahra Fatemi
As you are no doubt aware by now Bay Area residents have been ordered to “shelter in place” as health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have grown within the past few weeks. As a result many people are already feeling the economic crush of shuttering businesses, and the decrease in customers. While this continues to be a developing situation each day, lawmakers on the federal, state and local level have turned some attention to the question of evictions.
San Francisco Moratorium on Evictions for Non-Payment
In light of the crises, on March 13, San Francisco Mayor London Breed ordered a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent. The purpose of the moratorium is to protect Bay Area tenants in danger of being evicted as a result of COVID-19’s financial impact, including loss of income related to a business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or any out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic.
The moratorium will be in effect for thirty days, but can be extended if necessary. The eviction moratorium was issued by the Mayor after declaring a Local Emergency, and therefore, if at any point the Local Emergency declaration is rescinded, then the moratorium will no longer be in effect.
How Does the San Francisco Moratorium on Evictions Work?
If a San Francisco tenant is is unable to make rent payments as a result of COVID-19 related loss of income, tenants must notify their landlord immediately. Within one week of providing notice, affected tenants are required to provide documentation or another form of objective information to solidify their claim that they cannot pay rent. Once approved tenants will have up to 6 months AFTER termination of the emergency declaration to repay the past due rent. Unfortunately, at least for now, this moratorium does not apply to “no-fault” eviction proceedings such as Ellis Act evictions or Owner-Move In Evictions.
Governor Newsom’s (Wimpy) Executive Order
Additionally, on March 16, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order (Order N-28-20), for the stated purpose of preventing evictions during the coronavirus outbreak. While many initially assumed the order created a moratorium on evictions, it doesn’t go that far. In fact, what it does is simply allow local governments to impose moratoriums on evictions if they so choose. As with the San Francisco moratorium, the executive order ONLY extends to residential and commercial evictions arising as a result of financial hardship related to coronavirus. In short, the Order is fairly toothless. Tenant-rights groups are currently pushing hard for a statewide moratorium in California similar to those issued by New York and Massachusetts in the last few days. While we all have plenty to worry about right now, if you want the state to follow suit please contact the Governor’s office and tell him that we need a statewide moratorium on evictions to protect our most vulnerable residents.
Federal Moratorium on Evictions
On the federal level, President Trump announced a sixty day moratorium on certain foreclosures and on evictions for tenants in public housing managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While this does nothing for tenants living in private housing, it does at least provide some measure of protection for public housing residents, many of whom are elderly and/or disabled. Note that this also does not apply to tenants with housing vouchers, only those living in housing projects.
Under these tough circumstances, we must all come together to halt the spread of COVID-19. Stay home, follow the guidelines regarding washing your hands and gathering necessary supplies and stay positive. We will be doing our best to update you with new information for tenants as it becomes available.