Friday marks the first day that some California tenants could start receiving eviction notices.
This comes a day after state lawmakers extended eviction protections for tenants who applied for the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance program by the March 31 deadline.
Those who did not apply for housing assistance could not be evicted if the rent is late.
“You just have to owe rent. Technically it could be $1…$5…as long as you owe rent, the landlord can serve that notice,” explained Gilberto Vera, attorney for the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.
Vera says it’s essential that tenants know their rights.
“If the landlord tries to change the locks and force you out, that’s actually illegal. And there could also be criminal penalties,” he said.
Vera says landlords must follow a specific legal process. They first serve tenants with three days’ notice. If after three days they cannot pay what is owed, then an eviction is filed with the court. Vera says, however, that only law enforcement can force tenants out of their homes.
While tenants across California are grateful for the extension, it’s simultaneously causing stress for some landlords.
“I was desperate…crazy. But what can we do?” said Roberta Bonillas, a property manager in San Diego.
Bonillas says some of his tenants owe more than $100,000. California is behind in processing payments to those approved by 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 for us too,” Bonillas said.
The Legal Aid Society of San Diego and the San Diego Eviction Prevention Collaborative assist those facing eviction. Anyone with questions can get more information here.