California’s Eviction Moratoriums, Housing Is Key Campaign, and CDC Eviction Guidelines: Pausing COVID Evictions

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As the federal eviction moratorium expired on July 25 through the CARES Act, multiple eviction moratoriums have been declared, namely California’s Assembly Bill 3088 (“AB 3088”), which will work in conjunction with the “Housing is Key” campaign, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”)’s agency order to temporarily halt residential evictions. 

Governor Newsom signed AB 3088 into law on September 1st, 2020, which goes into effect immediately. Tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent from September 1st, 2020 through January 31, 2021 will be protected from eviction but are vulnerable to eviction beginning February 1st, 2021 if minimum rent payments are not met. AB 3088 also grants a temporary reprieve on unpaid back rent between March and August 2021 but allows landlords to sue for overdue rent during that period beginning in March 2021. There will also be some foreclosure protections for owners of small rental properties that have a tenant or tenants that are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 related reasons, among other criteria. Renters must submit a form affirming COVID-19 related hardships within 15 days of each month to qualify. 

Along with AB 3088, Governor Newsom announced the “Housing is Key” campaign. This campaign will attempt to connect information and resources to renters and landlords that are negatively affected by COVID-19. The campaign is run by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency to inform vulnerable communities of their rights, including the rights gained through AB 3088. 

On September 1st, 2020, the CDC filed an order in the Federal Register to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through December 31, 2020. This order applies to all rental housing providers if the renters provide the required declaration to their housing provider. This order is framed as necessary for public health, but it has been argued that this is more for economic purposes, since the CDC has also simultaneously downplayed the need for COVID-19 testing.  

There is an important distinction to note about the CDC’s order and AB 3088. The CDC order states that “jurisdictions that have an eviction moratorium providing the same or greater level of public-health protection than the CDC order are exempt from its requirement”. Since AB 3088 provides even greater protection by having the eviction moratorium last through January 31st, 2021, it will take precedence over the CDC’s order, which will not apply to California residents. 

It must be stated again that eviction moratoriums assist in protecting our vulnerable communities from mass evictions and homelessness, but there are still grand challenges to be faced soon, such as the astronomical amount of back rent from tenants and mortgage payments owed by landlords, respectively. It is up to the federal government in the coming months to find solutions for its citizens that is not just a single $1,200 check for the span of 6 months. People need to sustain financial assistance in conjunction with the stopgap of eviction moratoriums, or else we are looking at a national economic collapse that has not been seen since the Great Depression.