California’s judicial leaders delayed a closely-watched decision Wednesday on whether to end the statewide moratorium on eviction and foreclosure proceedings during the coronavirus emergency following warnings from housing advocates that the move could lead to a wave of renters being forced onto the streets.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who heads the Judicial Council, the courts’ policy-making body, said state officials need more time to come up with new protections.
"After discussions with the Governor, legislative leaders, and Judicial Council members—as well as hearing from residents with many different viewpoints—I have suspended for the time being the vote on the emergency rules dealing with evictions and judicial foreclosures,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a news release.
In April, the Judicial Council voted to suspend all court summons, judgements and lock out orders related to evictions and foreclosures until 90 days after California’s coronavirus state of emergency is lifted. The decision was made to protect those struggling to make payments during the coronavirus crisis.
The Council on Wednesday considered ending the moratorium in August rather than sticking to the timeline it originally outlined. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4. It remains in effect.
The Western Center on Law and Poverty, which advocates for low-income residents, warned before the vote that ending the freeze “is the wrong move.”
In a tweet, the nonprofit said: “If @CalCourts allows evictions in August, it will cause mass displacement, more interactions with police (sheriffs perform evictions), & push 1000s of Californians onto the street. A disproportionate number of CA renters are Black & brown.”
In a series of tweets, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said: “Our state continues to grapple with COVID-19 & millions of Californians are hanging on by a thread financially. Allowing renters to be forced from their homes will not only put countless Californians at risk of homelessness, but also threaten the public health.”
“While the Legislature should step in to solve these issues, removing protections for renters and homeowners months before legislative solutions are agreed upon & take effect is ill-conceived and will result in a rush to evict,” he continued.
Also on Wednesday, Chiu introduced a bill that would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for not paying their rent until 90 days after the coronavirus state of emergency is lifted. Under the legislation, AB 1436, tenants could use this time to repay missed rent payments. The bill does not propose financial assistance for renters.
The California Apartment Association, which represents thousands of landlords across the state, has urged the Judicial Council to revisit its freeze on evictions. In an April news release, it said the move would “protect banks and tenants but leave rental property owners vulnerable well after the COVID-19 crisis ends.”
Though most court proceedings stopped, landlords were still allowed to begin the eviction process. Some sent tenants who missed payments received legal notices from landlords saying they’ll start the eviction process unless the tenant pays up within 72 hours or moves out.
The Judicial Council also voted on Wednesday to end an emergency measure that set bail at $0 for people accused of lower-level crimes. That policy was meant to reduce jail populations and protect against the spread of the virus.
Law enforcement agencies have been highly critical of zero bail saying it prevents them from keeping repeat offenders locked up.
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