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Emergency eviction relief bill passes legislature, heads to Gov. Newsom

Lawmakers said the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act is a stop-gap measure that won't prevent all evictions, but they wanted to do something rather than nothing.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Beginning Wednesday, California renters facing hardship will need to pay 25% of their rent to be protected from evictions.

Lawmakers said the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act, which passed in the legislature just before 10 p.m., is a stop-gap measure that won't prevent all evictions, but they wanted to do something rather than nothing.

The emergency bill aims to protect the state's 18 million renters and property owner interests, slowing down an avalanche of evictions that housing advocates, like Shanti Singh of Tenants Together warned of.

"This kind of turns it into a slalom, if you will, where you're still zig-zagging, downhill trying to avoid rocks and trees," Singh said.

The COVID-19 tenant protection emergency bill is a deal brokered the 11th hour of the legislative session that will offer five months of protections. Sponsor, Assemblymember David Chiu said it's far from perfect, lacking some protections he had previously fought for.

"It will not prevent every eviction but will prevent many," Chiu said.

Tenants who prove financial hardship due to coronavirus and who missed rent between March and August are protected from eviction until February 1. That back rent is still owed to the landlord, who can sue in small claims court.

Between September 1 and January 31, renters are also protected from eviction, provided they pay 25% of their rent to stay protected from eviction.

After February 1, 2021, first regular rent is due.

"The expectation, I guess, is by February 1, people will be able to pay 100% of their rent again and that sounds absolutely impossible," Singh said.

Joshua Howard with the California Apartment Association says the bill is less burdensome to property owners and offers some financial relief to those who face foreclosures while offering eviction protection to renters. Still, he says it isn't enough.

"The important thing going forward is that funding is identified at the state and ultimately at the federal level," Howard said.

Howard says- both renters and owners both need financial relief.

The bill now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, who has vowed to sign it. It will go into effect Wednesday; the same day courts were set to being hearing eviction proceedings for the first time since April.

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