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State Senate votes to extend eviction moratorium

The California Senate voted 33-2 Monday, Aug. 31, to support an emergency bill that would extend an eviction moratorium due to expire Tuesday.

Three Republican senators joined with Democrats in supporting the measure, citing negotiations that brought tenant and landlord advocates together.

Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, said last-minute revisions hammered out in near round-the-clock talks helped “make an uncomfortable situation somewhat more tolerable.”

“We absolutely need to take action right now,” added Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, co-author of the compromise measure hashed out last week. “Failure to do so could result in thousands of Californians ending up on the street when our homelessness has been the highest and in the middle of a pandemic when people are supposed to be staying in their homes.”

The measure was to go before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee for consideration and, if supported, to the full Assembly.

A two-thirds majority is needed for the moratorium to take effect before the existing eviction ban ends. The Assembly vote also must occur before midnight Monday, the last day of the legislative session.

Under the bill, renters who attest under penalty of perjury to having a COVID-related financial hardship are spared from the threat of eviction through Jan. 31 for failing to pay rent. To help small landlords unable to collect any rent, tenants must pay 25% of the rent due for September through January, but can’t be evicted for failing to do so before February.

Tenants remain liable for repaying back rent, but the unpaid rent can’t become grounds for eviction. Instead, landlords can sue to recover those funds in small claims court, no matter the amount owed. Evictions for most other reasons, like causing a nuisance, can resume.

Surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau have shown that about 16% of California renters reported they failed to make their most recent rent payment on time.

“Despite the fact that people have not been working, … the information we are receiving from the data collectors is people are continuing to pay their rent,” Caballero said.

The moratorium is meant as a bridge until lawmakers reassemble for the next legislative session to craft a long-term solution for tenants and landlords.

“This ends in January. It can’t go on beyond that,” Borgeas said before casting a “reluctant aye” vote in favor of the bill. Four other Republicans, including Southern California Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, abstained. Laguna Niguel Republican Sen. Patricia Bates joined with Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, in voting no.

Bates said she opposed the measure in part because of opposition by the Apartment Association of Orange County.

“I believe this only addresses one side of the issue,” Bates said, explaining that small landlords are at risk of losing their source of income. “I’m very, very worried about their future, about their investments that could be lost.”

But because the bill would extend foreclosure protections in the Homeowners Bill of Rights to small landlords, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, argued the proposed moratorium is needed to protect small landlords as well as tenants.

Tenants “are about to lose the only place they know and be out on the street, and landlords are about to lose their properties,” she said. Ultimately, she said, the federal government must step in to provide a long-term solution.

“California doesn’t print money, can’t print money,” Jackson said. “We need help from Washington.”

Source: Orange County Register

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