Evictions On Rise While Money Scarce
by Dianne Anderson
Slow-moving money is holding up the process for renters that suffered through COVID-19 impacts, along with some mom and pop landlords confused about how much or when they’ll get what’s due them.
Rent money is coming down at a snail’s pace.
Although attorney Matthis Chiroux exclusively represents tenants, he feels that both renters and landlords are trying to be patient, even as the landlords continue evictions for nonpayment of COVID-19 rental debt.
“The best I’ve been able to do is keep things on ice in hopes that at some point, the money is going to start getting doled out,” said Chiroux, a Long Beach legal defense attorney at BASTA, a tenant rights organization.
The not-for-profit program takes on eviction cases. Besides the Legal Aid Foundation, he said BASTA is one of its kind in the city. Before the courts shut down due to the pandemic, he ran a free BASTA Universal program, standing outside the eviction court hallway to help anyone facing eviction if they could present a copy of a fee waiver granted by the court showing the defendant couldn’t afford to hire an attorney.
Each Monday and Wednesday – eviction days in Long Beach – he was taking on six to ten new clients.
These days, he is busy and his doors are open. Since the statewide moratorium ended September 30, he has seen another uptick in nonpayment cases over the past couple of weeks. He emphasized if tenants did not file a COVID-19 declaration of financial hardship, evictions for nonpayment will continue for those that didn’t pay rent in October.
“If you haven’t paid at least 25% of the back rent from March 2020 to September 30, 2021, you can also now be evicted for nonpayment from that period of time,” he said.
BASTA also participates in Stay Housed coalition, which collects applications from renters then routes them to legal service providers at the courthouse where the eviction was filed. He said many people are nervous about stalled funding to pay their past due rent.
“When it comes to the ERAP rent relief, it seems to me that tenants and landlords are very much in the same boat. Landlords want to get the rent money and tenants want to be able to pay the debt,” he said.
Of the $64 million in rental assistance that will be used until exhausted, the City of Long Beach has disbursed a total of $26.1 million, or which is in the approval pipeline. Currently, about $32 million is left on the table or available to be used for rental assistance.
Rick de la Torre, spokesperson for the city, said the Long Beach ERAP from the Development Services Department’s Housing & Neighborhood Services Bureau continues to carefully review applications, determine eligibility and approve payments.
“However, there is a good percentage of landlords and tenants who have submitted incomplete applications and we are reaching out to them to request their missing documents that are required to determine their eligibility,” de la Torre said in an email.
He said the city works closely with its diverse nonprofit partner agencies and community-based organizations, that are conducting outreach activities and providing direct assistance to landlords and tenants to help with applications and documentation.
“City staff, together with these local agencies and CBOs, have been seeking out and working with applicants from all across the City, particularly in the low-income areas of North, Central and West Long Beach,” he said.
Gregory Scott, President and CEO of Community Action Partnership of Orange County, said they leveraged CARES Act federal funds to launch their Homeless Prevention program, keeping individuals housed and stabilized.
So far, he said OC-CAP has disbursed a total of $631,463 in rental assistance as part of their Homeless Prevention program. Also, through their work with the City of Santa Ana, they have helped distribute $415,266. They also are a subcontractor with the city to help serve families through their Emergency Rental Assistance program.
He said 160 families were served through CAP OC’s Homeless Prevention program, and 48 families through the city of Santa Ana program.
“Our phones continue to ring off the hook and unfortunately, we continue to see more people who are desperate and receiving eviction notices. We currently have a waitlist and have unfortunately been unable to accept new applicants due to the limited amount of funding we have remaining,” he said.
CAP OC works closely with other nonprofits, CBO’s and cities to inform residents of what resources may be available. They also have partnered with the City of Anaheim on a Mobile Family Resource Center helping families in need, and worked closely with ten other Family Resource Centers in the county on the intake process and were able to receive referrals.
They can still accept referrals for residents of Santa Ana through the city’s program.
“The hardest part is turning people away, who are scared and don’t know where to turn. We are thankful to help where we can,” he said.
Recently, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released its finding that 16% of all adult renters were not caught up on their rent, according to data from September 29 to October 11.
“Here, too, renters of color were more likely to report that their household was not caught up on rent: 28 percent of Black renters, 18 percent of Latino renters, and 20 percent of Asian renters said they were not caught up on rent, compared to 12 percent of white renters,” CBPP reports.
For more information, see BASTA at https://www.basta.org/
To learn more about Stay Housed, see https://www.stayhousedla.org/
For application status, see Housing is Key at https://housing.ca.gov