California lawmakers approve bill to extend protections from eviction

California lawmakers approved a bill Monday to ban evictions through January for people who can't pay their rent because of the pandemic, sending the measure to the Assembly.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Legislature approved a bill Monday to ban evictions through January for people who can't pay their rent because of the pandemic, sending the measure to the Assembly.

Under the measure, landlords can't evict tenants who did not pay their rent between March 1 and Aug. 31. It would also ban evictions for tenants affected by the virus who pay at least 25% of their rent that's due between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31.

"This measure is simply a six-month bridge for both tenants and landlords," said Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena. "This bill by no stretch of the imagination is the end-all, be-all solution to the crisis. It's a compromise."

It passed the Senate on a 33-2 vote, with several Republicans joining Democrats in backing it. It then passed the Assembly on a concurrence vote.

The measure now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has previously said he will sign it.

The pandemic has devastated California's economy, causing millions of people to lose their jobs as the government ordered businesses to close for months to slow the spread of the disease. In April, the Judicial Council of California - the rule-making authority for the state's court system - halted most eviction and foreclosure proceedings during the pandemic.

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Those protections end Wednesday, and California lawmakers have been scrambling to come up with legislation to extend them. The proposal has been endorsed by legislative leaders in both houses.

But tenant advocacy groups are upset the bill does not halt all evictions. Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, including lease violations, could resume Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas of Fresno, who voted for the bill, said that when lawmakers return next year, they should consider approving a tax credit for landlords who were paid just 25% of the rent they were owed. A similar proposal introduced earlier this year failed to pass the state Assembly.

Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco who authored the measure, says it's the best lawmakers could do while mustering the two-thirds vote needed to make the bill take effect immediately upon the governor's signature.

The legislation would not forgive the missed payments. Tenants will still owe the money. Landlords can ask a judge to order the tenant to pay the money, but they can't ask a judge for an eviction solely for not paying rent in full.

Tenants would have to sign a document, under penalty of perjury, that says they have experienced a financial hardship directly related to COVID-19. Wealthy tenants - defined as earning a salary of at least $100,000 or 130% of the area's median income, whichever is higher - would have to show proof that they cannot pay.

Meanwhile, Monday is the final day to apply for Los Angeles County's rent relief program. Residents can check their eligibility via a FAQ at 211la.org/lacounty/rentrelief.
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