State and local lawmakers halted most evictions during the pandemic, but the moratorium in San Diego ends in July. Now, NBC has a first look at the size of the backlog, and why some say we're on the precipice of evictions on a scale unlike any we have seen before.
NBC 7 found that between March 2020 and January 2021, there were more 2,204 eviction petitions filed with the court. That’s drastically less than in 2019, which saw 7,334 petitions.
But that’s about to change.
“Once everything is lifted July 1, it’s full-on rollercoaster in,” says Priscilla Abugaber-Mercado, a senior case manager for San Diego Evictions.
Abugaber-Mercado says a big reason for the drop-off is because the court was either shut down or not allowed to process most evictions.
“I think we’re all on the edge of our seats,” says Abugaber-Mercado. “Every time we’re on the verge of getting relief, it gets extended.”
And relief is something she says landlords need desperately. She says the firm gets calls every day from landlords who need to move back into their own rental properties but can't.
“We have tons of owners who are losing their properties because they don’t have rental income,” says Abugaber-Mercado.
She says they're also hearing a lot of unsavory stories about tenants who did not pay their rent prior the the pandemic using the COVID-19 hardship to take advantage of the system.
But when court does restart processing evictions, Abugaber-Mercado anticipates we will see something unprecedented: eviction numbers double that of pre-pandemic.
Victoria, a single mother of two young children who asked us not to use her last name, is one of the thousands of tenants on the verge of eviction.
“I feel mentally drained. I feel tired. I feel like, 'Wow, this really happened to me and our family. We really got no money," said Victoria. “I never thought this would happen to my family. Ever.”
Victoria never thought her father, 48-years-old, would die of COVID-19. He died last Thursday.
“He was loved by so many,” says Victoria. “He was the rock of our family, for a lot of people.”
Coping with his loss and coming up with the money for his funeral is especially challenging.
Victoria tested positive for the virus herself last November, and just returned to work, for the first time in nearly three months.
But her per diem job as an administrative assistant at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest only covered 10 sick days. The state denied her application for unemployment, so she's been without a paycheck for nearly three months, and for two of them, behind on her rent.
"You know it's very overwhelming that somebody keeps kind of harassing you or contacting you about rent,” says Victoria.
Two days after her father died, Victoria says her landlord knocked on her door to say she was starting the eviction process. Her first thought was her children.
“I don’t want them to ever see something like that or remember, like, we got evicted, we got kicked out and we had to stay in a hotel,” says Victoria. “I don’t want them to see that. That’s horrible. Or my son sometimes sees me cry because I don’t have any money. Thankfully we qualified for food stamps which is very helpful, but that’s not enough.”
Victoria found help from a local nonprofit, CSA San Diego County, and wants others to know there's help for them too.
“I’m a single mom,” says Victoria. “I know there are so many other parents sitting in their room crying wondering how they’re going to make it.”
There is some state legislation in the works that could help subsidize rent backpay for both landlords and renters, but the catch is renters and landlord would have to work together, something the evictions case manager says might prove to be a bit of a challenge.
CSA San Diego Fair Housing offers help for renters navigating rental assistance during the pandemic. Just call 619-444-5700.
And to help Victoria cover funeral expenses for her father, a GoFundMe page has been created.