Since eviction moratoriums have been in place since the pandemic began, a wave of evictions is likely coming when they expire in June. However, even during 2020, and into this year, people were still being evicted.
"Some tenants are still being evicted under certain circumstances," said Erin Rounds, managing attorney at Tenants Legal Center. "I understand that this is a frustrating time for both tenants and landlords."
The San Diego Sheriff's Department told NBC 7 that in 2020m deputies carried out 975 evictions. Nearly 200 lockouts have taken place since October.
If a tenant is having difficulty paying their rent due to a pandemic-related reason, they have some eviction protections.
NBC 7 Responds talked to several small landlords who are stuck with big bills and no income, and also heard from tenants who needed help making rent payments. The moratoriums put in place by cities and the state of California help most renters, but there are loopholes available to landlords.
"They can still be evicted under certain circumstances," Rounds said.
While not providing legal advice, Rounds did explain that there are a few ways people can still be evicted, including if a rental property has been sold or if a property owner wants to have a family member move in a home. If a lease has come to its natural end, Rounds said, then any evictions would depend on the type of notice and the agreement itself.
"We have to be able to look at the language of those notices," Rounds said. "We have to be able to, basically, investigate the circumstances under which that notice was served."
If a tenant is having trouble paying rent and receive an eviction notice, they should look carefully at why the notice was served. Rounds said landlords are not allowed to announce an intention to sell unless they follow through.
"We can explore whether or not they are just saying they are going to put something on the market but it's actually because the tenant has not been paying rent," Rounds said. "There are always gray areas in the law, and that's why you have attorneys who are there to interpret the notice that you receive and any kind of complaint you are served with."
Tenants who are unable to make rent payments due to the coronavirus pandemic, need to tell their landlord.
"First and foremost, give their landlord the COVID-19 declarations stating they are having a financial hardship," Rounds said. "That is the first step in protecting their interests."
The COVID-19 declarations to a landlord is legally binding; tenants must be able to prove financial hardship. Cities, states and the federal government have set aside funds for rent relief, but sometimes those funds are being spent on immediate needs and not rent.
"I think a lot of people have used that for other bills, and, unfortunately, they have not been a sufficient amount for those tenants," Rounds said. "I have not seen anyone really applying them to rent."
The moratoriums have reduced the number of eviction cases being processed by the courts, but, Rounds said, that hasn't stopped people from looking for ways to settle these disputes.
"There are myriad ways that we can settle these cases," Rounds said, "whether it be a payment plan, or the tenant moving out and any sort of owed rent [being] waived."
The moratoriums are currently in place through the end of June, so landlords can go after tenants for unpaid rent starting on July 1. However, the moratoriums could be extended again if the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Many renters are confused by the changes, laws and restrictions. Rounds said that's par for the course, unfortunately.
"We have ever-changing laws at this time," Rounds said. "Even for attorneys sometimes it's hard to keep track of them."