With California down 1.7 million jobs from the pre-recession December 2019 peak as of March 2021, many tenants are unable to make their rent payments. However, the federal eviction moratorium protects tenants with pandemic-related financial hardships against eviction for non-payment of rent. In California, local protections go further.

At the state level, legislation titled Senate Bill (SB) 91 was enacted on January 29, 2021 which extended the California eviction moratorium law to June 30, 2021. Under SB 91, landlords who agree to waive 20% of a tenant’s unpaid rent between April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 will receive 80% of the remaining rent as reimbursements. The legislation uses federal funds to cover the expense.

Since then, on May 10, the governor announced he intends to pay landlords 100% of the rent owed by tenants who qualify due to a COVID-19 financial hardship, as the state of California received an additional $2.6 billion in rental assistance from the federal government.

At the local level, protections for tenants, restrictions for landlords and extensions on the eviction moratorium vary.

Los Angeles eviction moratorium

On February 23, 2021, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors likewise voted to extend the county moratorium on evictions through June 30, 2021. They also voted to add additional tenant protections.

Under the Los Angeles County eviction moratorium, a landlord may not evict a tenant for a no-fault reason. Additionally, a landlord may not evict a tenant for COVID-19 related violations due to nuisance, unauthorized occupants, denying entry to a landlord or pets.

The Los Angeles County ordinance also prohibits a landlord from imposing late fees, interest and any related charges for unpaid rent. Landlord harassment is also prohibited under the county ordinance. Landlords may be subject to administrative fines and penalties for violation of the provision, and tenants may sue a landlord for violating the county’s moratorium.

San Francisco eviction moratorium

On May 25, 2021, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the city’s moratorium on residential evictions from the end of June to the end of September 2021.

Under the city’s ordinance, two pieces of legislation were introduced:

  • an emergency ordinance which can be quickly enacted before July 1, but lasts for only two months; and
  • a longer version which will extend protections to the end of the year.

Under the new ordinance, tenants will also be eligible to avoid paying late fees. As of May 28, 2021, San Francisco tenants in need of help paying rent may apply for San Francisco’s rent assistance program.

Through federal funds, the city will provide up to six months of rent assistance for those tenants who demonstrate they have experienced financial hardship during the pandemic and are at risk of homelessness or housing instability.

San Diego eviction moratorium

On May 4, 2021, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors passed a countywide eviction ban and rent cap ordinance.

The ordinance only allows evictions when there is a health or safety threat to other occupants of the property, making it one of the strictest anti-eviction laws in California.

The effective termination date will be 60 days after the governor lifts all stay-at-home orders. The color-coded curfew system will end June 15, according to the governor. The ordinance, then, will expire two months after – a likely date of August 15.

Rent increases will also be capped at around 4%, a figure tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate for the San Diego area.

What the eviction moratorium means for landlords

While the moratoriums ensure tenants will be kept in their homes, the other side of the coin is how landlords will be able to survive while forgoing rental payments through the extensions applied at local levels in California.

Many landlords who supply housing in California are small mom-and-pop landlords. These landlords are left with few alternatives when tenants are allowed to continue occupying rentals without payments.

SB 91 is one initiative that addresses issues affecting both landlords and tenants, especially with the recent announcement that 100% of missed rents may be allotted to qualifying landlords. But this solution will not apply to everyone, and even when a tenant qualifies for the program, it might still be a waiting game in receiving the funds.

Numerous small landlords, community organizations and public officials vocally resisted the local ordinances imposed in each of the regions previously discussed which voted to extend tenant protections.

With over a year of eviction bans, these additional extensions on the local levels of the moratorium, including rent caps and additional penalties for landlords, may leave some landlords struggling in the months to come.

The future of the rental market is on shaky ground, as interests are increasingly divided between keeping financially distressed tenants housed and allowing landlords to maintain their rental properties and remain financially stable.

When the eviction moratorium is finally lifted across the state, landlords will be able to resume evictions for non-payment of rent. When this happens, expect vacancies to rise.

Related article:

Moratorium Watch 2021