Tenants and Landlords Alike Begin April Fearful of Coronavirus Fallout


Photo by Eric Heath. Used under CC BY 2.0.

In mid-March, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued what he called an eviction moratorium. But many tenant advocates say the term is misleading, because it postpones evictions rather than prevents them. Some landlords, too, are wondering how they’ll make ends meet, and whether the state will step in to help them if tenants just can’t pay. Advocates for both groups say landlords and tenants should start open communication to negotiate an approach that works for both sides to keep everyone in place.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to have been living hand to mouth already and now you’ve lost your job. People are really scared,” said Michelle Pariset, a policy advocate with the civil rights law firm Public Advocates. “If you’re a small landlord right now, you’re probably scared, too. You’re scared that your tenant is not going to be able to pay their rent and you’re not going to be able to pay your mortgage. I would just ask you to have a conversation with your tenants.”

In San Francisco, a local order on residential evictions is in place as well. The San Francisco Tenants Union has a guide online for tenants about the local order. But here, too, advocates have said the protections could be stronger. The Anti-Displacement Coalition said the order just delays evictions and means that tenants who can’t pay now end up in debt, with no clear path toward being able to pay their rent even in six months. The coalition also says tenants who are covered by the orders are often confused about the process for accessing the protections offered, especially regarding deadlines and required documentation. Landlords, too, are deeply concerned about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially those on a fixed income. But Noni Richen, president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, says many want to do everything they can to avoid evicting their tenants right now.

“The same as the tenants are worried, ‘how am I going to pay my rent,’ the owners are worried about how they’re going to pay their expenses. And I hope that our renters are in place and comfortable and safe,” Richen said. “No one is talking about evicting people. These are our clients, our customers. We don’t want to evict them. And for a small property owner, to evict someone is a very major concern.”

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