File Photo. Kit Karzen

On Monday, one day before the statewide eviction moratorium was set to expire, Governor Newsom signed AB 3088 protecting tenants from evictions due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 until February 1, 2021. Santa Monica’s eviction moratorium was not set to expire until September 30, but the passing of this legislation provides clarity on landlords and tenants rights as California waits in hope of future federal rental assistance.

Under this Bill, tenants cannot be evicted for a failure to pay rent owed due to COVID-19 related hardships between March 4 and Aug. 31, until Feb. 1, 2021. For back rent accrued from Sept. 1 to Jan 31, 2021, tenants will have to pay at least 25 percent to avoid eviction. The legislation does not forgive missed payments and tenants will still owe this money to their landlord.

“AB3088 may help forestall evictions statewide, but Santa Monica renters were already better protected by our local actions, including an eviction moratorium through the end of this month,” said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown. “The state bill won’t let us extend that moratorium further, and leaves unresolved how impacted renters will ever pay all that back rent. Money for that will have to come from Washington, so AB3088 buys Californians time until we renters get some love from the Biden Administration.”

70 percent of Santa Monica’s residents live in rental housing. Of those people, only tenants making above $100,000 a year will have to demonstrate proof of an inability to pay rent due to the pandemic.

The Bill does not provide guidelines for how tenants are expected to repay this money in a struggling economy where millions of California residents remain unemployed. Santa Monica’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides residents with up to three months of rental assistance for up to a total of $5,000 to be applied towards rents due after Sept. 30.

“As we move forward, we will continue to update our local eviction moratorium to reflect extended timelines and requirements even as we support renters through our Emergency Rental Assistance Program, educate tenants and landlords on the moratorium requirements, and connect those whose housing is in jeopardy to available resources within and beyond the City,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg.

Despite these efforts, the City has limited resources to help residents who will struggle to eventually repay rents and, like the rest of California, is hoping for a federal response to the brewing rental crisis. Applications for the City’s rental assistance closed on July 17, and there is currently no additional assistance available.

“California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market,” said Governor Newson in a Aug 31 press release. “We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”