CAN'T PAY YOUR RENT? DO NOT MOVE OUT! YOU CANNOT BE EVICTED!!
In the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19), many people are stricken with the virus, are out of work or on reduced pay; companies have closed or reduced hours and workers; unemployment subsidies have run out; the lone stimulus check has long been spent, and many people are struggling just to survive. Due to this novel virus -- a national disaster that no one caused -- and its destructive toll on people, businesses, institutions, cities, counties, states, and throughout the entire country, governments had to take action to keep people alive and government functioning.
Facing a tsunami of tenant evictions, massive additions to the City's homeless population, and mortgage foreclosures, governments were forced to institute urgent policies to suspend the pending economic calamity. The most significant policies instituted by local, state, and federal governments is the enactment of "moratoriums" against evictions for non-payment of rent, and forbearance of loans and mortgages to halt home and business foreclosures.
Moratoriums against rent evictions have been enacted by Oakland, Alameda County, the State of California, and the federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as a public health measure. Moratoriums have been in effect since mid-March through December this year, or January 2021, or longer. Renters may claim protection coverage under any of the present moratoria. Because the Oakland Moratorium offers more protections for most Oakland renters, HAWG strongly recommends that Oakland tenants claim coverage under the Oakland Moratorium. However, for Oakland renters who live in relatively new buildings (those constructed since 1995), the Alameda County Moratorium offers the most protections, and Oakland tenants of these buildings should claim coverage under the Alameda County Moratorium. Details of these Moratoriums are discussed below. however, the standout fact to be remembered by ALL Oakland tenants is:
YOU CANNOT BE EVICTED DURING THE MORATORIUM ... WHETHER RENT IS PAID ... IS PARTLY PAID ... OR ... IS NOT PAID AT ALL. Questions You May Have and Other Facts You May Want to Know:
Q: What protections do tenants have under the Oakland Moratorium? A: In allbuildings constructed before 1996, the Oakland Moratorium bans evictions due to unpaid rent for the period from March 2020 until Oakland's Local Emergency is ended by the City Council
Q: What protections do tenants of newer buildings have under the Alameda County Moratorium? A: In all buildings constructed since 1995, the Alameda County Moratorium bans evictions due to unpaid rent from March 2020 until 60 days after the California State of Emergency is ended by the Legislature and signed by the Governor,
Q: What must tenants do to obtain the Moratorium protections? A: NOTHING. The protections are automatic. If the landlord asks about unpaid rent, the tenant should refer the landlord to the Moratorium page on the City's website. If a tenant is in a newer building, the tenant should refer the landlord to the Moratorium page on Alameda County's website. In the event that a landlord errs by serving the tenant with an Unlawful Detainer, the tenants should assert to the court their protection under the (City's or County'S) COVID-19 Moratorium
Q: Which rental properties are covered by the Moratoriums? A: Because the City and County Moratoriums have stronger provisions than California and federal CDC Moratoriums, the City and County Moratoriums take precedence. Accordingly, between City and County Moratoriums, ALL private rental units are covered.
Q: Can renters still be evicted during the Moratorium? A: Yes. All of the Moratoriums permit two exceptions for eviction: (1) To protect against physical threats or harmful actions to others, or (2) For the eradication of threats to public health. If the tenant is the cause of either infraction, the landlord may serve the tenant with an Unlawful Detainer (eviction notice), which may result in the tenant's mandatory appearance and/or eviction by a court.
Q: My landlord says I must move out because they want to remove my unit (or building) from the rental market. Can they do that? A: California has a current law called the "Ellis Act." The Ellis Act allows a rental owner who no longer desires to operate residential rental property to remove a unit or a building from the rental market. Oakland applies stringent conditions to all Ellis applications. Consequently, Oakland has had very few Ellis Act applications, and therefore few "Ellis" evictions. If an Ellis application is approved by the Oakland Rent Program, existing tenants are allowed 120 days (1-year for elderly or disabled) to relocate, and must receive generous relocation payments from the landlord before the tenant is required to move out. (If more information is desired, refer to the Oakland Rent Program website.)
Q: What happens to the rent balance, if any, during the period of the Moratoriums? A: During the period of the Moratorium, tenants are strongly encouraged to pay full rent or partial rent, whenever possible. Even if property owners are awarded "forbearance" (a delay of rent or mortgage payments), repair expenses and operating costs of the rental property continue to accrue and must be paid by the owner. Although rent payments are not required during the Moratorium, it is strongly recommended that landlords and tenants talk and attempt to come to an interim agreement for an amount and on terms that the tenant feels can be comfortably complied with. While rent is not required to be paid during the Moratorium period, the total amount of rent unpaid throughout the period is still owed to the landlord. At the end of the Moratorium, any such balance is reclassified as "consumer debt" (like credit card debt) owed to the landlord. If desired, the landlord can pursue repayment of the "consumer debt" in Small Claims Court. However, the landlord cannot seek the eviction of the tenant based on consumer debt.
Q: What happens if I can’t pay my rent after the Moratoriums end? A: If rent is not paid for the months that follow the end of the Moratoriums, the landlord may seek eviction of the tenants in accordance with current California Unlawful Detainer laws. Prior to, or immediately upon being served a UD notice, Tenants are urged to gather documentation showing pandemic-related hardship and attempt to negotiate directly with their landlord for a mutual arrangement to secure one's housing until the tenant is able to make regular payments again. Otherwise, the tenant will have to appear in court and plead their situation to the judge.
Q:How do the City and County Moratoriums affect landlords? A: During the Moratorium, whether any rent is paid or not paid, it is unlawful and can be the source of hefty fines if the landlord pesters or harasses tenants about unpaid rent. If needed, legal services are available to assist tenants to pursue harassment violations by landlords ln civil court. (If more information or legal assistance is desired, refer to the Oakland Rent Program website.)
Q: Will There be New laws, Programs, or Financial Grants to Address or Prevent the Huge Wave of Evictions and Foreclosures Likely to Occur when the Moratoriums End? A: A significant benefit of the Oakland and Alameda County Moratoriums is that the earliest date for their termination will occur after January 20, Inauguration Day for President. It is public knowledge among many members of Congress that swift and urgent action will be mandatory to avoid unimaginable financial collapse and a flood of new homeless households nationwide. Hopefully, an administration that is more amenable to averting the pending financial cataclysm will assume federal office and will move swiftly to restore order in the housing and financial sectors of the country. This potential benefit does not exist with either the federal (CDC) or State (AB 3088) Moratoriums. The CDC Moratorium terminates under the current unfriendly administration on December 31, 2020, which, to date, has not shown any inclination to address the pending crisis. The State Moratorium terminates during a possible new administration on January 31, 2021, however, under the State Moratorium, 25% of each month's rent must be paid for the five (5) months beginning September through January by January 31, 2021, because beginning March 1, 2021, the landlord can file for eviction of the rent-owing tenant.
For more information on housing or legal assistance, refer to the "Resources Page" of the Oakland Rent Program Website. Prepared by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group of Oakland