San Francisco, CA

San Francisco renters could be protected even after state moratorium ends

Josue Torres
Photo by Jonathan Rados.Unsplash

San Francisco will prolong its three-month moratorium on home evictions and may also prolong its own version of more generous state tenant protections, which are slated to expire in June, until the end of the year.

The Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly authorized an extension of the city’s home eviction moratorium from the end of June to the end of September on Tuesday. Landlords in San Francisco may remove renters solely for nonpayment of rent, aggression, threats of violence, or health and safety problems, according to the city’s legislation.

Separately, a state statute protects renters who pay a quarter of their rent against eviction for nonpayment of rent. However, it is set to expire on June 30.

With indebted tenants facing a cliff, Supervisor Dean Preston submitted legislation Tuesday to extend such safeguards until December 31. Tenants would also not be charged late fees.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Preston said that “help is on the way.” Tenants in need of assistance with their rent may apply for San Francisco’s rent assistance program beginning May 28.

The city will give up to six months of rent assistance for renters who can show financial difficulty during the epidemic and are at danger of homelessness or housing instability, spending nearly $90 million in federal money.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we keep people in their homes, and this funding will help ensure that happens,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement.

The state recently declared that it will spend $2.6 billion to rent relief, with the goal of fully repaying past rent from April 2020 to March of this year, although it is yet unclear who would be eligible. The state’s initiative will give help for up to a year.

During the press conference on Wednesday, doctors, nurses, a tenant lawyer, and homeless activists testified in favor of the plan.

Elena Cruz said that she lost her job in March 2020 and is now owed $18,150 by her landlord. She applied for the state rent help program but has yet to get a response. Her landlord sent her a letter on Friday demanding that she prove how she planned to pay her debt within a week or forfeit the property.

Her landlord did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Noni Richen, board president of the Tiny Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, a non-profit that assists the city’s small landlords, said that they are also suffering.

“No other small businesses are treated as we are being treated,” she claimed. “Naturally, we are opposed to yet another extension.”

Richen believes that pandemic rental subsidies should have been handled in the same manner that governments manage Section 8 housing.

“The situation is verified, and the housing provider receives rent, with the renter required to pay part of their income if they have any,” she said.

Richen said that the state rental assistance program seems to be promising, but that additional information on how it would operate is required.

To avert widespread evictions during the pandemic, Breed issued an emergency decree in March 2020 prohibiting evictions during the public health emergency and for two months after it ends. She also removed late fees and interest at the time, providing renters more time to pay their rent.

Nearly a year ago, the Board established laws prohibiting landlords from evicting renters who are unable to pay their rent due to pandemic-related difficulties. Preston’s policy did not cancel rent, but instead prohibited landlords from ever citing late payments as grounds for removal.

Preston proposed his new idea in two pieces of legislation to extend a version of the state safeguards. The first is an emergency ordinance, which may be adopted swiftly and lasts just 60 days. A more comprehensive measure would prolong safeguards until December 31.

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San Francisco, CA

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