Keeshemah Johnson peers out the window of the home she once shared with her partner, Maurice Austin. Her T-shirt pays tribute to Austin.

Keeshemah Johnson rushed her partner to the emergency room last summer. Maurice Austin had lost his appetite and wasn’t getting out of bed much. Then he started struggling to breathe. He tested positive for Covid-19 in the emergency room.

Austin died on Aug. 1, 2020, less than a week after Johnson took him to the hospital.

Within days, Johnson said, their landlord began pressuring her to leave. On Sept. 15, she received an eviction notice, stating that she had five days to move out of their Hunters Point apartment. The couple had never added Johnson’s name to the lease — a fact the property owner cited to claim that Johnson and her stepson were illegally squatting in the home they shared with Austin.

“He wasn’t even in the ground yet before they were expecting us to vacate the apartment,” Johnson said.

Johnson is among hundreds of San Francisco renters whose landlords have tried to force them from their homes in the midst of a global pandemic. A San Francisco Public Press analysis of the city’s Rent Board data found that from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2019, landlords filed 1,226 eviction notices; during the same period in 2020, landlords filed 535 notices, even as city, state and federal moratoriums on pandemic-related evictions remain in effect. READ MORE

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  1. Unfortunately, Covid has pushed poeple into difficult situations. Although this article does sounds sad, even in non-covid times this would happen. The landlord made a lease agreement with Austin, and not anyone else. Unfortunately Austin doesn’t live there anymore and the landlord should have every right to send an eviction notice. Johnson and her stepson are not on the lease, and at best they would be considered unauthorized subtenants. Johnson could have at anytime tried to add herself on lease by talking to the landlord before Austin died. But chose not to even though she started living there since 2019. She stated everything happened so fast and she never got the opportunity to. There are many other reasons for this as maybe the landlord would have not agreed or would have raised the rent because there is more poeple. But as a landlord it is his right to do both of the above.

    Could you imagine if the landlord couldn’t control who was in his rental apartment? Tenants could move in and out and “transfer” leases and the landlord would not know whose living there. Fortunately for her, the courts decided in her favor. This unfortunately shows the unfairness the law has towards landlords during this time.

    In general, It seems like a lot of landlord’s rights to the apartment are being taken from them. They are still forced to pay for property tax, utilities, and insurance while not collecting rent. The new SB-91 basically tells the landlord to forgive 20% of past rent. If landlords don’t agree, the state would pay the minimum 25% rent for them until June. So landlords would have to wait to evict. Doing this knowing fully the renter probably can’t pay the back rent. Forcing the landlord to to through the uphill battle of eviction. Banks and lenders aren’t going to give them 20% off the mortgage. In fact, if the landlord was able to get a forbearance, the entire payment comes due at the end of the period all at once.

  2. They have taken this eviction moratorium too far and I feel like the consequences are coming. Although I agree with having help for those that truly lost their jobs because of covid and cannot pay rent. Currently anyone can just give a declaration that they have lost income because of covid. You don’t need to show proof. You could be making 200k and then because of covid make 150k. This could be considered a “loss of income”. Or you can just say you are out of work, while still working full time. Poeple are just taking advantage of the situation leaving landlords in a big financial hole. The courts should open so tenants who are truly in trouble can show they are and landlords can evict those taking advantage.

    Tenant advocates are now saying the moratorium is not strong enough. They want to get rid of evictions for nuisances, property destruction, and lease violations. What’s the point of having a lease if landlords can’t enforce an agreement. To be honest, tenant advocates seems they are using Covid-19 as a reason to push their no eviction agenda. There should be a balance in everything. Stopping all evictions and canceling all rent is one of the most entitled way of thinking without realizing the consequences behind it. Yes people are struggling, but stopping the court system is not the way to handle it.

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