Ashley Napier, Special to the Daily Press

City Hall will consider a new communications campaign to inform renters and landlords about the extended eviction moratorium recently passed in Sacramento as part of a bill known as AB 832.

AB 832 extends the statewide eviction moratorium through September 30 and provides financial relief to struggling tenants and their landlords. Coauthored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), AB 832 is an extension of SB 91, also known as the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020.

The new act puts forth $5.2 billion to be put towards tenants past due rent, relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allows 100 percent payment of low-income tenants past due rent, back to April 2020, up from the previous 80 percent. It also prohibits landlords from issuing unlawful eviction notices, so long as the tenant pays at least 25 percent of their past-due rent by September 30 and follows all other rules set under a person’s lease agreement.

According to research done by PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute for the National Equity Atlas, some 807,000 of California households are behind on rent, with the average amount per-household behind being $4,400.

Of those, 76 percent are people of color, 75 percent are classified as low-income and 57 percent are unemployed.

The motion passed this week was made at the request of Mayor Himmelrich, Mayor Pro Tem McCowan and Councilmember Negrete and asks for a communications campaign to inform renters and landlords about the newly signed legislation in the form of either door hangers, email, mail or by hotline. Himmelrich is backed by Santa Monica for Renters Rights, who applauded the initiative, while newly appointed council member Lana Negrete identified as one of the 70 percent of residents who are renters.

The motion, unanimously passed by the Council, allows staff to put forth a report on what would be the most inclusive and cost-effective way to reach Santa Monica renters and property owners to help them understand their opportunities and how and where to apply for these resources.

Santa Monica for Renters Rights wrote to the council, fearful that many small landlords and renters won’t know, or understand their rights under the new legislation. In the letter, they called on the Council to “step up,” and “make sure our renter residents and property owners understand the resources available to them and how to access these resources.”

Himmelrich reiterated SMRR’s words, stating that it is “important that both landlords and tenants understand what their rights are,” so the 70 percent of renters in the community don’t have to face the “eviction tsunami that everybody is worried about.”

Although the budget and operation of the initiative was not up for discussion, Mayor pro Tem McCowan suggested to the Council that if there is an associated cost for the project, “it may be something we could potentially consider from [the] counsel discretionary [fund].”

Councilmember De La Torre gave his full support for the initiative saying, “I just think it’s a great idea.”

To qualify for rental relief, the tenant’s household income must be at or below 80 percent of the area median income during 2020 or 2021, which is $77,300 for a family of four in Los Angeles County, but varies by number of persons in the household.

While staff works on their report and possible budget for the initiative, Public Information Officer for the City of Santa Monica, Constance Farrell says that the city is actively reaching out to residents who can benefit from rent help through social media, community email newsletter, website, and will be looking at additional tools in the coming weeks.

More information can be found at www.housingiskey.com.

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