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Evictions put on hold: How city and county rules help out-of-work tenants behind on rent

A crush of renters are seeking financial help, overwhelming local aid programs

Santa Clara County and several local cities passed emergency laws temporarily banning evictions last week, all of which are about to be put to the test.

With April 1 approaching and thousands of families already reporting being unable to pay the rent due to the coronavirus, tenants and landlords alike are scrambling to navigate the new laws. How long is it in effect? How much time do renters have to report that they can't pay? And when is the money finally due?

The rules are in many cases different from one city to the next. The upshot is that families who have lost income because of the coronavirus — either the illness itself or income lost due to the shelter order by public health officials — can stay in their homes and not be subject to an eviction for failing to pay rent for several months. The county's eviction moratorium lasts through May 31, and gives renters a 120-day grace period after that to come up with the back rent.

The protections, which extend to commercial renters, mean tenants have a reprieve on March, April and May rents until late September, giving them time to return to work and earn money to pay off the delayed costs. Nothing in recent eviction protections imposed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the county, Palo Alto or Mountain View waives unpaid rent, meaning it must be paid back after the health crisis is over.

In Palo Alto, the City Council on March 23 passed a moratorium on residential evictions that will remain in effect until the city's state of emergency expires. After that point, tenants would have 120 days to pay the full amount of the back rent.

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In Mountain View, tenants will have seven days to inform landlords that they can't pay rent, and an additional seven days after that to provide documents proving that the coronavirus and its myriad impacts on the local economy has resulted in a "substantial" loss of income. Even if a landlord were to attempt to evict a tenant, it wouldn't go far: County courts announced Friday that they would not process any legal paperwork or hold court proceedings that would result in a residential or commercial eviction.

The county ordinance is purposefully vague about what constitutes a substantial loss, but indicates that proving any of the following should be enough:

• Job loss.

• Layoff.

• Reduction in work hours.

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• A store or business closure.

• Missing work to care for homebound school-age kids.

• Caring for a family member infected with COVID-19.

An impending disaster

Last week, the nonprofit Destination: Home announced an $11 million fund to keep families housed and financially stable after losing income due to the coronavirus. It took two weeks to collect, drawing on the support of public agencies and private companies.

Within just a couple of hours of launching the relief program, there was a crush of 1,400 applications. Sacred Heart Community Services, the nonprofit spearheading the effort, had its website crash almost immediately and its voicemail system completely overloaded with requests. In three days, that pool of applications grew to 4,000, more than exhausting the fund.

Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving told the Voice that the eviction moratorium is important and staves off an immediate surge of evictions and people on the street. But she worries that a staggering number of lower-income families — already barely scraping by — are suddenly unable to pay for rent, health care and other essential costs. Absent enough financial assistance, she believes the county is on course for "financial calamity."

She acknowledged that the initial $11 million wasn't nearly enough, but that the nonprofit didn't want to wait for more philanthropic donations to start disbursing the funding. People need the help right now, she said, pointing out that a family that came to Sacred Heart on Friday seeking assistance had just $3 in their bank account.

Looking back on her 25-year career assisting those in poverty, Loving said the coronavirus poses an unprecedented challenge. The people who need help number in at least the tens of thousands, many of them workers in the gig economy, retail and food services who simply don't have the option to work from home.

"The scale and the enormity of the need is deeply concerning to me," she said. "I think that we have a looming financial catastrophe, and we are on the edge of just starting to understand what that is going to mean for the vulnerable families who live here."

Destination: Home is already working on ways to raise money and inject more funding into the now-depleted assistance program, including corporate donors and private, individual donations on its website. Meanwhile, local jurisdictions including Mountain View are launching their own relief programs for city residents.

The good news is that the eviction moratorium gives nonprofits and public agencies more time to assist families in need, but there is still a sense of urgency. A family making only $25,000 a year isn't going to be able to recover when unpaid rent piles up as high as $6,000 or $8,000, she said.

"Let's not let people get three months in arrears, because that is going to be insurmountable for many people," she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Evictions put on hold: How city and county rules help out-of-work tenants behind on rent

A crush of renters are seeking financial help, overwhelming local aid programs

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 5:09 pm

Santa Clara County and several local cities passed emergency laws temporarily banning evictions last week, all of which are about to be put to the test.

With April 1 approaching and thousands of families already reporting being unable to pay the rent due to the coronavirus, tenants and landlords alike are scrambling to navigate the new laws. How long is it in effect? How much time do renters have to report that they can't pay? And when is the money finally due?

The rules are in many cases different from one city to the next. The upshot is that families who have lost income because of the coronavirus — either the illness itself or income lost due to the shelter order by public health officials — can stay in their homes and not be subject to an eviction for failing to pay rent for several months. The county's eviction moratorium lasts through May 31, and gives renters a 120-day grace period after that to come up with the back rent.

The protections, which extend to commercial renters, mean tenants have a reprieve on March, April and May rents until late September, giving them time to return to work and earn money to pay off the delayed costs. Nothing in recent eviction protections imposed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the county, Palo Alto or Mountain View waives unpaid rent, meaning it must be paid back after the health crisis is over.

In Palo Alto, the City Council on March 23 passed a moratorium on residential evictions that will remain in effect until the city's state of emergency expires. After that point, tenants would have 120 days to pay the full amount of the back rent.

In Mountain View, tenants will have seven days to inform landlords that they can't pay rent, and an additional seven days after that to provide documents proving that the coronavirus and its myriad impacts on the local economy has resulted in a "substantial" loss of income. Even if a landlord were to attempt to evict a tenant, it wouldn't go far: County courts announced Friday that they would not process any legal paperwork or hold court proceedings that would result in a residential or commercial eviction.

The county ordinance is purposefully vague about what constitutes a substantial loss, but indicates that proving any of the following should be enough:

• Job loss.

• Layoff.

• Reduction in work hours.

• A store or business closure.

• Missing work to care for homebound school-age kids.

• Caring for a family member infected with COVID-19.

An impending disaster

Last week, the nonprofit Destination: Home announced an $11 million fund to keep families housed and financially stable after losing income due to the coronavirus. It took two weeks to collect, drawing on the support of public agencies and private companies.

Within just a couple of hours of launching the relief program, there was a crush of 1,400 applications. Sacred Heart Community Services, the nonprofit spearheading the effort, had its website crash almost immediately and its voicemail system completely overloaded with requests. In three days, that pool of applications grew to 4,000, more than exhausting the fund.

Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving told the Voice that the eviction moratorium is important and staves off an immediate surge of evictions and people on the street. But she worries that a staggering number of lower-income families — already barely scraping by — are suddenly unable to pay for rent, health care and other essential costs. Absent enough financial assistance, she believes the county is on course for "financial calamity."

She acknowledged that the initial $11 million wasn't nearly enough, but that the nonprofit didn't want to wait for more philanthropic donations to start disbursing the funding. People need the help right now, she said, pointing out that a family that came to Sacred Heart on Friday seeking assistance had just $3 in their bank account.

Looking back on her 25-year career assisting those in poverty, Loving said the coronavirus poses an unprecedented challenge. The people who need help number in at least the tens of thousands, many of them workers in the gig economy, retail and food services who simply don't have the option to work from home.

"The scale and the enormity of the need is deeply concerning to me," she said. "I think that we have a looming financial catastrophe, and we are on the edge of just starting to understand what that is going to mean for the vulnerable families who live here."

Destination: Home is already working on ways to raise money and inject more funding into the now-depleted assistance program, including corporate donors and private, individual donations on its website. Meanwhile, local jurisdictions including Mountain View are launching their own relief programs for city residents.

The good news is that the eviction moratorium gives nonprofits and public agencies more time to assist families in need, but there is still a sense of urgency. A family making only $25,000 a year isn't going to be able to recover when unpaid rent piles up as high as $6,000 or $8,000, she said.

"Let's not let people get three months in arrears, because that is going to be insurmountable for many people," she said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Hmm
Professorville
on Mar 31, 2020 at 7:24 pm
Hmm, Professorville
on Mar 31, 2020 at 7:24 pm

It is very nice to help those in need at this time of crisis. Though, it is going to be difficult for people who have been used to getting paid in cash. There are many projects that are done with verbal agreements and with cash payments ie. yard work, babysitting, and low-skilled work. A lot of people will not qualify for the corona relief and a small amount of money will not pay their rent more than a month. It will put landlords in a very awkward situation.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:11 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:11 pm

This is an impending mess -- a REAL crisis of housing. Studies a few years ago showed that most households in the U.S. have little in terms of savings. The study determined that a majority of Americans were living month-to-month.

In the Silicon Valley, we have a population where many residents are "house poor" while others are renters who are living month-to-month.

While there are mortgage moratoriums offered by major banks and mortgage companies, renters are quite so blessed. Preventing eviction is one thing. However, the renter -- many of which are now temporarily unemployed -- must come up with more money in the long run (once things return to "normal").

Here is the conundrum: If a Silicon Valley renter is living month-to-month, then that renter has little to no money to repay back rent that will be owed. Where do they come up with that rent?

Sadly, landlords often cannot afford to simply forego rent either.

One potential solution is simple:

Mortgages: The state works with banks and mortgage companies to suspend mortgages -- interest free. The principle would still be owed. However, the final end-of-note date would be delayed by the number of months in moratorium.

Renters: If a property is still being paid for, then the state could insist that the moratorium be extended to renters too. In other words, if the bank allows the property owner to have three months of grace for rent, then the owner would (in turn) offer the tenants that same grace period.

If a property owner has already paid off the property and owns it outright, then the state could step in and assist financially through a property tax credit in the amount of reduced monthly rent that would be passed down to tenants.

I'm not sure if there is a simple solution though. If this shelter-in-place extends through May, then May will be an awfully painful months for many families in the Bay Area (and around the nation). What do you do if 25% of renters in the Bay Area simply cannot afford to pay rent (or back rent)?


common sense
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2020 at 11:18 pm
common sense, Midtown
on Mar 31, 2020 at 11:18 pm

City should also forgive or delay utility bills to those in need.


Mary
Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2020 at 11:49 am
Mary, Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2020 at 11:49 am

@Nayell those are great ideas!


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Unfortunately, everyone seems to assume that inability to pay rent is the only reason for eviction. While that is true for most, there are always a few people who insist on behaving badly, and who are being evicted because of bad behavior. It would be unfortunate if the law protects bad actors from eviction.


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