With the Sept. 30 end of the eviction moratorium looming on the horizon, the City is doubling down on efforts to encourage landlords and tenants to apply for the vast amount of rent relief available from the state.

Any household in Santa Monica that is at or below 80 percent of area median income is eligible to have 100 percent of back rent and utilities owed paid for by the state. The qualifying income is $66,250 for a household of one, $75,700 for a household of two, $85,150 for a household of three and $94,600 for a household of four.

So far, over $8.6 million has been distributed to 552 local households with an average assistance of $16,584 per household. In total, 1,317 applications have been received and $21.4 million requested with many of these applications awaiting processing.

Federal assistance is available until the money runs out, but members of the Rent Control Board are urging both tenants and landlords to submit applications as soon as possible.

“The Santa Monica eviction moratorium remains in effect through the end of September, after that tenants will have 12 months to repay their back rent, and we want members of our community to remain safely housed,” said Tracy Condon, executive director of the Rent Control Board. “Toward this end we’re working with the City to get the word out about the state’s Covid-19 rental relief program.”

Although the eviction moratorium has been extended several times since March 2020, local leaders and legislative experts do not believe it is likely to get pushed out again.

During an Aug 11. Rent Control Board meeting Brian Augusta, a legislative housing advocate, gave a presentation on the status of housing bills in the state Senate.

“We’re at a point in the legislative session where there’s only a month left and once they adjourn, absent a special session, there is not really a mechanism for the legislature to extend the eviction protections,” said Augusta. “It would take an extraordinary measure to make that happen, unless it happens in the next month, which I don’t anticipate.”

Tenants are currently protected from eviction for non-payment of rent if they pay 25 percent of back rent accumulated since April 2021 and submit a declaration each month. Assuming the moratorium expires on Sept. 30, remaining unpaid rent cannot be used as grounds for eviction, but the debt can be pursued through small claims court. Evictions can be pursued for non-payment of rent owed from October onwards.

The state’s rent relief program offers some continued protection beyond the window of the eviction moratorium.

If a tenant is being pursued for an eviction they can make a motion to the judge declaring that their rent relief application is still pending and the case will be stayed until they either receive the money or the application is denied. If the money received covers the rent that was the basis for the eviction, the case will be dismissed.

Although the state’s rent relief money is plentiful and powerful, many renters are either unaware it exists or have difficulties with the application.

The Rent Control Board’s outreach program, in partnership with the City, is striving to make it as easy as possible for tenants and landlords to access money.

This plan includes mailing multilingual postcards to every household in Santa Monica and sending follow-up targeted postcards to rent-controlled units and property owners. Information will also be distributed through community organizations and local media platforms.

There are also efforts underway to set up phone, in-person, and at home appointments with a non-profit organization that can guide residents through the application process.

“We want everyone across our community to be aware of the state funds available to tenants and landlords to pay 100% of housing and utility costs for income-eligible households impacted by COVID-19,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “These funds will support our recovery and ensure Santa Monicans can stay in their homes. Our City is committed to sharing this information with every eligible landlord and tenant. Apply today, Santa Monica!”

Applications can be submitted at housing.ca.gov or by calling (833) 430-2122.

Clara@smdp.com