Photo by Lola Chavez, May 7, 2020.

A state assembly bill will exempt tenants from eviction if they applied for, but have not yet received, state rent relief. 

A State Senate Judiciary committee voted 8 to 1 to pass AB 2179, and a vote on the senate floor is expected by Thursday. If this bill passes, those who applied for rent relief before March 31 will be able to stay in their homes until at least July 1. 

This will protect the thousands of tenants who are waiting for the state to send rent relief checks or review applications before statewide protections end on April 1. But it fails to protect those who have not yet applied, which advocates say may include tenants with less access, such as monolingual residents and those with disabilities. The state bill also prohibits multiple localities from implementing their own eviction protections if they were not in place before Aug. 19, 2020, meaning it would kill San Francisco’s current moratorium extension. (Localities can implement protections on July 1.)

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was the sole “no” vote on Tuesday. “I’m confident [people] are eligible for rent relief and have not applied, for whatever reason,” Wiener said. “If your city wants to protect you, they can’t.” 

While other senators seemed to agree, they felt ultimately it was important to preserve a safeguard to hundreds of thousands of Californians who had applied and are awaiting review, especially as state protections expire Friday. The legislators blamed the state’s faulty and slow distribution process for holding up tenants who still owe Covid-19 rent.

“It would be cruel, it would be wasteful, and even unfair, to subject Californians to eviction or the loss of rental income,” the author of the bill, Assemblymember Timothy Grayson (D-Concord), said on Tuesday. “Now, when they have done everything that has been asked of them, and distribution of their emergency rental assistance is imminent.”

Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) said that while, like Wiener, she was “pained” that Los Angeles County would be unable to provide eviction protections to its low-income residents who hadn’t applied, “I would rather do something, than not anything.”

This would be the another state-backed extension of eviction protections, causing frustration among groups like the California Rental Housing Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Missed rent payments burden landlords, who may use that income to pay mortgages or other finances, said Kate Bell, representing both groups on Tuesday. 

“Residents have already had a year to apply, and [the state] has had many months to process applications,” Bell said. 

Tenants advocacy group Tenants Together released a letter ahead of Tuesday’s vote, calling the bill “unworkable unless significantly amended.” It continued, “We are staring down the barrel of another homelessness crisis in California.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston retweeted the letter, and accused Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-Long Beach) and Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) for writing “bad legislation with the landlord lobby behind closed doors.” 

The bill cleared both the assembly and the senate, but now is being rereferred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Before the statewide eviction expires at midnight on Thursday it’s expected to land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, which he is likely to sign into law.

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Great news. Homeowners throughout the state have been struggling to avoid foreclosure, bankruptcy, and displacement due to the insanely counterproductive eviction moratoriums. From the beginning, any rent relief should have been directly to homeowners, not to renters.

      1. Clearly you don’t actually know how the system works. Most people are OK, but there is a small percentage of people who game systems. Most landlords are “mom and pop” operations with one or two small buildings as part of their retirement. They almost universally carry a mortgage. The State of California instituted lock-downs that forced people out of work for two years. They then barred landlords from eviction for non-payment. Like it or not, that’s the government telling you what you can do with your own property. How would you feel if they commandeered your car because of a transportation emergency but you still had to make the payments? But hey, it’s all a bunch of rich landlords so who cares, right. Well, it only takes one bad actor in a small building to ruin your finances. I know people personally that have a renter in a duplex they own that have trashed the place, have double violent felons moved in without authorization, run over their pet in the driveway, and told them they aren’t paying rent and there is nothing they can do about it. Multiply that by several tens of thousands of renters. Where do you think that leads? It leads to normal people who might invest in housing to decide California is screwing them and selling to large corporations who manage thousands or units. Do you think that is better or worse for the average rent cost or average renter? But back to your question – the RENTER has to apply for the rent relief. The landlord is not entitled to any information about whether they actually did, the disposition, etc. Many problem renters stopped paying, saved the money and bought cars and stuff that showed up on their social media. If they don’t apply, or just skip out and leave, the landlord is left holding tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent and there are zero programs for them to get relief from directly. They are once again at the mercy of the bad actor tenant. There is such a thing as too much compassion. There is a line between helping people and enabling self destructive behavior. The state crossed that line years ago. Now, eventually, there will be a flood of evictions. Guess what the next solution is? Some genius in Sacramento things we should bar landlords from checking credit, eviction, and criminal history on applicants. Can’t have all these previously evicted deadbeats unable to find new housing or new landlords to steal from. Again, it’s a minority of people who are the problem, just like only a small percentage of people are murderers, but they can do a lot of damage.