Coronavirus-related Eviction Protections Made Permanent in San Francisco
Landlords in San Francisco will never be permitted to evict tenants who miss rent payments because of income losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic under a new law passed by the Board of Supervisors, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. The legislation does not “cancel rent,” in the sense of letting tenants off the hook for paying their landlords during the emergency. But it makes it illegal for landlords to kick tenants out for not paying during the emergency, effectively giving tenants more time to make up for any arrears they accrue because of the pandemic.
“Without this legislation, we feared thousands of eviction filings as soon as the current eviction moratorium expires,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, who sponsored the bill, in a press release. “We have given struggling tenants peace of mind that they don’t have to fear eviction as they make up their back rent.”
A hearing about the bill lasted for hours, according to the San Francisco Chronicle report, eventually concluding in a 10-1 vote in favor of the policy. The one Supervisor to vote “no,” Catherine Stefani, said she didn’t believe the policy would stand up to a legal challenge, according to the report. Some landlords testified in opposition to the bill. According to the report, Preston said he is working to create a “Rent Resolution Fund” to help small landlords cover costs when their tenants can’t pay. In his press release, Preston said that the bill “simply takes eviction out of the equation.”
“The back rent would become akin to consumer debt, which a landlord could elect to pursue in any manner they see fit,” the press release said. “A tenant with the means to pay would have every reason to follow through on their contractual obligation, in the same way they would have every reason to pay their monthly credit card bill, or student loan payment.”
New Tenant Protections in Dayton
A new law in Dayton, Ohio, bars landlords from charging tenants with late fees of more than 5 percent of their monthly rent or $25, whichever is lower, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News. The law also requires landlords to give tenants receipts when they pay in cash or by money order, according to the report. The new rules are meant to curb evictions in Dayton, where the eviction rate is nearly double the national average, the report says. The rules stem from recommendations made by an eviction task force appointed last year by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
“Everyone in Dayton deserves safe and stable housing,” Whaley told the Daily News. “Dayton was facing an eviction crisis before COVID-19, and we know that it is likely to be deepened by the economic fallout of the pandemic.”
The Daily News previously reported that evictions were paused locally while court hearings were suspended for social distancing, but that advocates were expecting a wave of evictions when courts reopened. As a state, Ohio has one of the lowest scores — half a star out of five — on the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. The new legislation in Dayton “shifts the burden of proof in court to landlords to prove that rent was not paid, if they did not provide a receipt to their tenants,” according to the Daily News.
Tracking Rent Payments
Almost 81 percent of tenants paid their rent by June 6, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker survey. The on-time payment rate decreased less than 1 percent since last June, according to the group. The survey includes data from 11.5 million “professionally managed apartment units” around the country. In a press release, NMHC president Doug Bibby said the data were encouraging but limited. For example, the survey doesn’t include data from small multifamily apartments of four units or less, where many low-income renters live.
“There are serious signs of economic dislocation outside of our reporting universe that underscore the need for Congress to pass a direct rental assistance program and extend unemployment benefits before it’s too late,” Bibby said in the press release.
In a Twitter thread, Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, expanded on the limits of the Rent Tracker. For one thing, Yentel said, the Rent Tracker doesn’t break down payments by apartment class, and supplementary data suggest that Class C apartment renters (generally more than 20 years old and in need of repairs) are struggling to pay rent more than tenants in other apartment classes. The tracker also counts partial payment as full payment, she said, and doesn’t specify when tenants pay with credit cards rather than cash.
“It’s true that we haven’t yet reached the financial cliff for millions of renters to fall off,” Yentel said. “That cliff will come as expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits expire, one-time stimulus checks are spent, and more eviction moratoriums end.”
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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.