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Santa Clara County Supes Vote To Extend Eviction Moratorium, Impose Fines For Mask Violations

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) - Amid a ticking "eviction time bomb" in Santa Clara County, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an extension on the eviction moratorium for both private and commercial tenants and to impose fines for COVID-19 health order violations.

Violations include not wearing masks, or social distancing. The fines range from $500 for non-business violations to $5,000 maximum for business violations, and are effective immediately.

Violators have a 24-72 hour grace period to respond to the county and avoid the ticket. They can also appeal in writing within 10 days.

The moratorium extends protections toward tenants who cannot pay their rent or mortgage because of job or wage loss related to COVID-19 beyond its current expiration on Aug. 31.

However, the exact date for the new eviction ban will be decided at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 25 and may include additional protections for tenants and fines for landlords who do violate the moratorium.

"I am favor of extending the moratorium but we can't just be doing this as a Band-Aid solution because it's not going to really do anything in the long run for all of us who are renters and are suffering for not able to pay rent," said Cecilia Chavez, who is an organizer with Silicon Valley De-Bug.

The board echoed similar sentiments, agreeing that the moratorium was a short-term solution aimed to buy the county more time to come up with lasting policies to combat the impending housing crisis.

A report by Working Partnerships USA found that more than 43,000 rental units in the county were at risk of being evicted once the previous county moratorium was set to expire.

"These really are issues where we need the state and federal government to step up. I used the phrase earlier, 'buying some time'. We have done that we are continuing to do that, but we need the state and federal government ... to use that time to get to meaningful, long-term solutions to some of those very difficult challenges," Supervisor Joe Simitian said.

A board referral brought by Supervisor Cindy Chavez also asks board members to work with county counsel and local organizations to ensure that the moratorium laws are real and effective for small business tenants.

"Despite the moratorium, some landlords have ignored the law and are trying to force their tenants to defend costly lawsuits," Chavez said.

"We have a lot of property owners who are doing the right thing by people right now, so the intent is not to penalize those who are really trying to support each other getting through this. It is really for the outliers that are taking advantage," Chavez said.

The Santa Clara County unlawful detainer courtroom, which reviews eviction cases, reopened on Aug. 5, but state laws bar the court from hearing any new cases.

However, landlords can still file new cases and when the state-wide eviction moratorium is eventually lifted, the court can resume operations.

"The only cure that is going to happen is people going back to work and there has to be tolerance and understanding from landlords and tenants working together," Supervisor Mike Wasserman said.

"I am all in favor of this extension, I have been in favor of each one prior, but this is a deferral and not a solution. I think what we need is the state to step forward to help solve the problem, not extend the problem by allowing people to go back to work," Wasserman said.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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