Friday marks the first day some California tenants could begin to be served with eviction notices.
It comes one day after state lawmakers extended eviction protection for renters who had applied for the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance program before the March 31st deadline.
Those who did not apply for rental assistance could not face eviction if rent is overdue.
“You just have to owe any rent. Technically it could be $1…$5…as long as you owe rent, the landlord can serve that notice,” explained Gilberto Vera, an attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Diego.
Vera says it’s essential that renters know their rights.
“If the landlord tries to change the locks and force you out, it’s actually illegal. And there could be some criminal penalties as well,” he said.
Vera says landlords have to follow a specific legal process. They first serve tenants a three-day notice. If, after three days, they can’t pay what’s due, an eviction is then filed with the court. Vera says, however, that only law enforcement can force renters out of their homes.
While renters across California are grateful for the extension, it’s simultaneously causing stress for some landlords.
“I was desperate…mad. But what can we do?” said Roberta Bonillas, a property manager in San Diego.
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Bonillas says some of her tenants owe more than $100,000. California is behind on processing payments to those who have been approved through the state’s rental assistance program.
While more than 500,000 tenants have applied for the program, less than half have received their money so far.
“If they don’t pay, we don’t get paid, and it’s hard on us too,” said Bonillas.
The Legal Aid Society of San Diego and San Diego Eviction Prevention Collaborative assists people facing eviction. Anyone with questions can get more information here.