.Newsom Signs Bill Extending State Eviction Protections Through June 30

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending the state’s coronavirus-related eviction moratorium Friday, keeping protections intact through June 30.

Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 91 comes two days before protections would have ended statewide, triggering a wave of evictions in counties that had not passed their own moratoriums. 

Tenants are required to pay at least 25 percent of their monthly rent to benefit from the moratorium and also have a minimum of 15 days to provide proof of financial hardship to remain protected from eviction.

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Newsom said he was “not naive” in acknowledging that SB 91 would not be a panacea for the state’s renters struggling to keep pace with their bills amid the pandemic.

“We recognize we have to do more,” Newsom said Friday during the signing ceremony. “And we have to continue to support those most vulnerable in this pandemic-induced economy, in the recession that we continue to work our way through. 

The bill also established the State Rental Assistance Program, utilizing the $2.6 billion in aid for renters the state received from the latest federal stimulus bill.

Newsom said Monday during a briefing on the pandemic that the state will use the federal funding to pay up to 80 percent of low-income residents’ outstanding back rent to landlords, while the remaining 20 percent will be forgiven. 

That funding will be targeted at renters who make less than 50 percent of the area median income for their local jurisdiction, with the potential to expand relief to renters making less than 80 percent of their AMI.

SB 91 represents “the nation’s strongest rental protections,” Newsom said. “And that’s a point of pride at this moment in our nation’s history, certainly in the history of this state.”

State legislators passed the original eviction moratorium, co-authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, in late August after the California Judicial Council voted to rescind the statewide ban on evictions during the pandemic that it had adopted in April.

At that time, Chiu characterized the moratorium bill, Assembly Bill 3088, as necessary but not perfect, and not as sweeping as his original proposal, AB 1436, which would have prohibited evictions for missed rent payments until 90 days after the state’s emergency order is lifted or April 1, 2021, whichever came first.

AB 1436 also would have granted tenants an additional 12 months after that to pay back rent before a property owner could take them to court.

“I expect there will be a need to revisit this legislation to address gaps and provide relief to additional tenants,” Chiu said Monday in a statement. 

Shortly after AB 3088’s signing, tenant rights activists criticized the bill as being too conciliatory toward landlords and property managers and failing to forgive outstanding rent payments that had piled up for struggling tenants. 

SB 91 has spurred similar disapproval from activists, who note that the State Rental Assistance Program is strictly voluntary, allowing landlords and property managers to continue asking tenants for back rent rather than accessing relief funds from the state.

Activists plan to hold a demonstration Friday at Oakland’s Elihu M. Harris State Building to chide state officials, call for stronger protections and hold a candlelight vigil for tenants at risk of eviction and lawsuits over back rent. 

Oakland City Councilwoman Carroll Fife is expected to attend. 

“It is imperative that we do the work to protect everyone with this federal stimulus whether the landlord lobby likes it or not,” Fife said in a statement. 

The demonstration and vigil are expected to begin at 5:45pm, according to organizers.

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