SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The first of the August arrived with a renewed sense of worry for renters in the capital region and California affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Until now, tenants have been protected by a series of overlapping rules on the county, state and federal levels which have put evictions on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. But as the suspensions begin to expire, tenants are staring over the edge of a cliff.
The Judicial Council of California announced earlier this month it would vote on ending its emergency protections for tenants as early as Aug. 14, shifting the onus to act to legislators. With the deadline looming, Gov. Gavin Newsom has extended local governments' ability to ban evictions until Sept. 30, but many are counting on the Legislature, which is considering multiple bills to extend that ban and protect tenants and property owners who have lost income.
But without new rules to take their place, advocates and lawyers say the most vulnerable renters could face a wave of eviction summons even as the pandemic worsens.
Roughly 7% of California renters surveyed didn't make rent in July or had payments deferred, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's new Household Pulse Survey designed to measure the affects of COVID-19. The survey found more than 3.8 million tenants in the state had little or no confidence they could make next month's rent -- about 1.9 million homeowners in the survey had the same sentiment about paying their mortgages.
Advocates believe housing insecurity will only grow as the pandemic continues.
"The thing we've been scared about is this flood," said Sarah Ropelato, a managing attorney at Northern California Legal Services. "That will be just devastating to families in Sacramento."
The Judicial Council rule, passed in April, put a hold on the court proceedings necessary for an eviction. In order to evict a tenant who has not paid rent, landlords must first issue a three-day notice. Then, if the tenant does not pay, landlords can file a lawsuit and serve them with a court summons, which asks them to appear for an eviction trial. The emergency Judicial Council rule said courts will not issue those notices -- halting the eviction process in its tracks.
Landlords can still issue notices during the pandemic, but tenants don't yet have to go to trial. For Sacramento renters like Maria Aguila, the rule is all that stands between them and eviction.
Aguila was working three jobs but contracted COVID-19 and has been unable to work. Just weeks after she missed the first rent check, her landlord served her with an eviction notice. Because of the judicial council rule, Aguila does not have to appear in court or face trial for an eviction. But if the protections end in two weeks time, she will have to stand trial.