California governor cancels all past-due rent; evictions still a possibility

by Erika DuBose
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FILE – In this April 23, 2018, file photo rent control supporters march past the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Californians who rent apartments built after 1995, single-family homes or condominiums have limited protections from rising costs under a state law passed that year that restricts rent control. That could change if voters pass Proposition 10 in November. It would overturn the 1995 law and open the door to more rent control in cities and counties across the state. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California renters who have struggled financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic received a gift this week from California Governor Gavin Newsome. All past due rent has been forgiven, and California renters have been given a clean slate. 

Governor Gavin Newsome announced the policy after California received over $5 billion in federal government funds for COVID-related relief. The money is enough to cover all the accrued rental debt for all citizens since December 2019, when COVID-19 first appeared in the United States. 

Renters and landlords alike across the state have breathed a sigh of relief. Building and housing owners will be able to stay afloat, while renters who were unable to make payments will feel the relief of not facing past due bills and the effects on their credit score. 

Back rent covered, but eviction moratorium set to expire

The rental relief program covers 80% of what low-income tenants owe, with the landlords required to forgive the remaining 20%. During a press conference about the rental relief program, California Governor Gavin Newsome said, “We recognize the acuity of stress associated with back rent, and we recognize the acuity of stress as it relates to gas, water, and electric bills.”

However, eviction relief is on the table. California had a moratorium on evicting renters and homeowners during the bulk of the pandemic, however no decision has been made for the June 30 expiration date for the eviction moratorium.

One California renter, Kelli Lloyd, who is a single mom and has not worked consistently since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 is not happy with the indecisiveness regarding evictions. “The expectation for people to be up and at ’em and ready to pay rent on July 1 is wholeheartedly unfair,” she said. 

Policy makers are getting together to gather information and make a decision on eviction relief in the next week, as COVID-related job losses have created a major economic downturn, even as COVID vaccines are readily available. While the rental relief is boon to renters and landlords, evictions still loom largely in the background.

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