California eviction protections signed into law, but please few

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Gov. Gavin Newsom late Monday signed a stopgap measure to rein in evictions, offering limited protections for tenants and aid to landlords hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The compromise flew through with more than two-thirds of the vote in both chambers, allowing the measure to be enacted immediately.

Despite the overwhelming vote, it seemed to truly please no one. Some landlords felt the measure won't help small property owners pay their mortgages and expenses, while some tenant advocates worry the complex regulations will not do enough to prevent evictions for the most vulnerable.

Newsom acknowledged the state will need more help to address the economic instability, and possible displacement, faced by renters during the pandemic.

"California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it's just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market," Newsom said in a statement. "We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation."

The coronavirus pandemic has clipped the state economy, and nearly 8 million California workers have applied for unemployment benefits since widespread shutdowns in mid-March. A statewide moratorium enacted by the Judicial Council of California banning most court hearings on evictions expires at midnight, Sept. 1.

Lawmakers moved to offer some legislative fix as court protections lapsed.

The proposal brokered by Newsom, lawmakers and interest groups bans evictions based on unpaid rent between March and August, and requires tenants to pay 25 percent of their rents between September and February to prevent court-order displacement.

The law does not wipe out unpaid rent, and landlords can pursue the debt in civil court.

Tenants must prove they have been affected by the pandemic to get relief. High income renters must provide financial statements backing up their request. Local protections, enacted in most Bay Area counties and cities, would also sunset under the proposal.

The law also requires landlords to give their tenants written instructions about their rights, including materials in the tenants' native languages.

"This will not be the ultimate solution to addressing COVID-19 evictions, but will tide us over for the next five months," said the bill's author, Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco. "This gives us the time to reconsider our options next legislative session and potentially work with a new federal administration on economic relief for struggling tenants and property owners."

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Distressed Law and regulation Multifamily Gavin Newsom Coronavirus California
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