If state lawmakers don’t act fast, tenants across California will become vulnerable to eviction next month for rent debts they accumulated during the pandemic.
Amid increasing calls for Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to avert an eviction wave, the San Francisco Public Press held a live panel discussion Wednesday about how the state got to this moment and what comes next. The Public Press spoke with Ora Prochovnick, director of litigation and policy at the Eviction Defense Collaborative, which provides free legal aid to people facing eviction, and Shanti Singh, communications and legislative director at Tenants Together, a statewide coalition of tenant-rights groups.
“We are definitely facing a serious crisis,” Singh said, adding that if tenant protections expire, “you’re going to see a lot of people who incurred rental debt during COVID who will be left effectively defenseless.”
The main takeaways:
- Tenants who have struggled to pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships should immediately apply for rent assistance. Qualified applicants will receive financial aid, though it may take months for the money to arrive.
- Applicants for rent relief cannot be evicted for their pandemic rent debts while they await a decision from the government. That protection expires March 31, which is also the state’s deadline to apply for rent aid.
- Multiple organizations, as well as San Francisco Mayor London Breed, have called on the state to extend eviction protections beyond March.
- Tenant advocates are worried that the state will override protections recently passed at the local level. Unless that happens, San Francisco tenants facing COVID-19 hardships will be shielded from eviction for unpaid rents due in or after April.
Eviction protections are complex, and tenants can better understand them by checking this Public Press flow chart.
Are you facing eviction? Call the Eviction Defense Collaborative at (415) 659-9184 or send an email to [email protected] as soon as possible. The organization advises that tenants respond within five days of being served with court papers to avoid the risk of a default judgment against them.
Is your landlord suing you to recover pandemic rent debt? Go here to read our guide on how small claims court works, and how to argue your side of the case.