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Advocates warn of looming eviction crisis as tenant protections are set to expire

The Judicial Council of California may vote to lift emergency protections as early as August 14th

ELK GROVE, Calif. — Colorblind artist William Rhoades lost commission on his work during the coronavirus pandemic, then in May, he and his wife received another blow.

"It was, like, 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, and she just started bawling her eyes out, and I couldn't really hear her. [I said] 'tell me what's wrong,' all she said was, 'We lost the house,'" Rhoades said. 

After paying rent on time for 18 months, Rhoades said his Elk Grove landlord chose not to renew their lease and gave them and their three children 40 days to vacate. 

Under state and local eviction moratoriums, these types of evictions are still legal. 

It is in the courts where tenants are broadly protected, where eviction proceedings have been suspended. Advocates warn that last layer of protection will soon be lifted.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced the Judicial Council will soon consider rescinding temporary emergency rules that halt court actions on evictions and proceedings, which could take effect as early as August 14.

In a press release, the council said the Chief Justice’s notice is meant to give the Governor and the Legislature time to consider policy proposals to protect litigants involved in those types of proceedings. 

“I urge our sister branches to turn their attention to this critical work to protect people from devastating effects of this pandemic and its recent resurgence,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

"That's really troubling because the legislature has not put something in place to replace the rule, to sort of offset this scenario of mass evictions," said Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

In Rhoades case, he said they were wary of angering their landlord, who they wanted to use as a reference for future housing. 

"We could either fight it and try to have the law on our side, or we could try and suck it up," he said. 

To save money and avoid living on the street or a hotel, the Rhoades decided to separate the family. He took his 3 children to Kansas City to live with his parents, while his wife stayed back in California with her mother. 

"It's been really hard. I miss her. I miss her so much everyday," Rhoades said.

Housing advocates and lawyers like Vyas warn of more stories like this as a looming eviction crisis draws near.

With overlapping expiration dates on eviction moratoriums and temporary court emergency rulings expected to be lifted, Vyas said the legislature must act quickly to keep families in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. 

She said landlords are often represented, and tenants do not have counsel, which can leave them overwhelmed and intimated by the intricate eviction system.

"So there's a lot we need to do to make housing in California more equitable and [COVID-19] is really highlighting the real cracks in the system," she said. 


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