California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill that will extend the state’s moratorium on evictions through June 30 of this year, aiming to protect Californians facing ongoing economic hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SB 91 extends a pause on evictions for tenants who declare under penalty of perjury an inability to pay all or part of their rent due to a COVID-related reason. Previously those protections were set to expire on Feb. 1 under AB 3088, which the governor signed last year.
“Once again, California is leading the way by enacting the strongest eviction protections in the nation, which will provide relief for millions of Californians dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” Newsom said in a statement.
Under the new legislation, as under AB 3088, tenants will still owe unpaid rent to landlords, but those unpaid amounts can’t be the basis for an eviction, even after the moratorium ends. AB 3088 allowed landlords to begin recovering unpaid rent in small claims court on March 1, but SB 91 extends the prohibition on those collection efforts to Aug. 1.
SB 91 also establishes a state rental assistance program, which will allocate the $2.6 billion in rental assistance California is set to receive from the federal government. The program will prioritize aid for qualified tenants who are most at risk with unpaid back rent.
It will also extend assistance to landlords who agree to waive 20 percent of unpaid rent. In agreeing to that waiver, landlords would become eligible for 80 percent in rent reimbursements for amounts owed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. The program will begin accepting applications from tenants and landlords in March.
The new law also prohibits the selling or assigning of rental debt accrued from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 until the end of the moratorium, although the prohibition is permanent for the debt of certain low-income renters. Landlords are also prohibited from using COVID-19-related debt as a negative factor in evaluating a housing application, or as the basis for refusing to rent to a tenant who’s otherwise qualified.
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