As 2020 draws to a close, landlords and tenants in California look to state lawmakers for economic relief. The 2020 pandemic has only intensified since March, increasing the need for a legislative solution to the conflict between landlords and tenants.
Currently, Californians do not have to pay their full rent, and landlords cannot evict them. However, this moratorium is not permanent, and landlords hope to collect rent, and back-rent, soon.
Two eviction moratoriums later
Currently, California is under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal eviction moratorium until December 31, 2020, and a state eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021. The CDC issued the federal moratorium back in September to help renters who lost income due to the novel coronavirus. This moratorium does not prevent landlords from suing for rent or attempting to collect; it only limits a landlord’s ability to evict their tenants. These measures keep more people inside their homes where they can more easily practice quarantine measures and social distancing, helping slow the spread of the virus.
Additionally, the California legislature passed a measure that prevents evictions through February 1, 2021. The state mandate offers more limited protections, only covering those who have lost their jobs directly due to COVID-19. Applicants must apply and prove they have lost work due to the illness. Even then, tenants must pay 25% of their rent each month.
Legislation does not address the real problem
Several critics claim that this legislation is a band-aid over the unaddressed problem of back rent. Once these moratoriums cease, landlords will expect tenants to begin paying rent on time and paying all overdue back rent. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank estimates that renters will owe their landlords nearly $1.7 billion total, more than a quarter of all back-rent due nationwide. Landlords and tenants alike fear the lawsuits to come once the moratorium drops — even landlords who win their suits will not be able to collect back rent from an empty bank account.
Tenants and landlords both face economic hardship
Unless the federal or state governments pass more economic relief measures, these eviction moratoriums only delay financial disaster for lower-class renters and landlords. Once these moratoriums expire, a wave of foreclosures, lawsuits and evictions will sweep the country, with minimal opportunity for financial restitution.
Those facing lawsuits will have more success defending their rights with a local attorney familiar with California’s complex landlord-tenant laws.