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Calif. Legislators Advance Bill to Extend Eviction Protections

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – California is one step closer to banning evictions through January for people who can't pay their rent because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rent eviction
Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions in front of the court house amid Coronavirus pandemic on August 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Under Assembly Bill 3088, tenants would be allowed to stay in their homes through at least Jan. 31, 2021, as long as they pay a portion of their rent, according to a deal announced Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom following weeks of negotiation.

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.

The bill passed the Senate on a 33-2 vote, with several Republicans joining Democrats in backing it. It still needs a vote in the state Assembly. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he will sign it.

Under the proposal, tenants can be sued in civil court for back rent they owe through Aug. 31, but they cannot be evicted.

For rent owed after August and through the end of January, tenants must pay 25% by Jan. 31. The other 75% will be treated as civil debt and must be paid or tenants risk eviction.

RELATED: Protesters Surround Downtown LA Courthouse Demanding Rent Relief

Tenants would have to sign a document. under penalty of perjury, that says they cannot pay their rent because of a coronavirus-related economic hardship. Higher-income renters — defined as people who make at least $130,000 a year or 13% of the area's median income, whichever is larger — must provide proof that they cannot pay their rent because of the virus.

The bill does not protect landlords from foreclosures. But it would extend the California Homeowner Bill of Rights to small rental properties of up to four units. The Homeowner Bill of Rights provides some foreclosure protections, but right now it only applies to owner-occupied homes.

"The agreement protects California renters with COVID-related economic hardship by eliminating the possibility of eviction from March 2020 through January 31, 2021, so long as the tenant makes certain declarations and partial payments going forward. Tenants are still responsible for repaying unpaid rent eventually, but it can never be the basis of an eviction," Newsom said in a statement.

The proposal falls short of the tenant protections of an earlier bill, AB 1436, authored by David Chiu (D-San Francisco), which would have prohibited evictions through April. He also co-author of the compromise bill but expressed disappointment in it.

Chiu said the bill is weaker than he wanted because he had to get two-thirds of the Legislature to vote for it. That way, the bill would take effect immediately after Newsom signs it. Otherwise, the bill would have not taken effect until January, leaving a lengthy gap with no protections.

The bill does not protect against all evictions. Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent can resume on Sept. 2. That's disappointing to some tenant advocacy groups, who had been pushing for broader eviction protections in a state that was facing a housing shortage prior to the pandemic.

All this began on Aug. 13, when the Judicial Council of California voted to lift the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures beginning Sept. 1. The only way the moratorium can now be extended is if the California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom reach a deal on doing so.

In early July, Newsom signed an extension through Sept. 30 for a separate executive order which gives local governments the authority to halt renter evictions.

On July 21, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors extended a countywide ban on evictions for residential and commercial tenants through Sept. 30 as well. The moratorium was first put into effect in March, when the pandemic took hold. It applies to all local jurisdictions unless they have enacted their own moratoriums.

In April, the L.A. City Council voted to move forward with a plan to freeze rent increases for a period of about one year for older apartments that are protected by the city's rent stabilization ordinance.

Last October, Newsom signed a law which caps annual rent increases at 5 percent for any housing that is 15 years or older.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 24, L.A. County began accepting applications for a $100 million rent relief program for low-income renters. The program is open to all residents of L.A. County who do not live in the city of Los Angeles. The city of L.A. has its own $103 million program.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.)

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