Contra Costa County supervisors are expected to vote Sept. 22 on whether, and how, to extend protections for residential tenants who can show they are missing rent payments through financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supervisors first approved the eviction moratorium and rent freeze in March, as the pandemic was beginning, and extended them in May and again in July. The county’s current eviction moratorium ends Sept. 30. (A separate county rent freeze runs through Jan. 31, 2021).
In the meantime, Assembly Bill 3088, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020, was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 31. This statewide law prohibits unlawful detainer actions against residents with COVID-19-related financial distress for non-payment of rent and other charges due between Sept. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021.
That bill offers some relief for residential landlords as well, converting back rent payments into “consumer debt” and allowing landlords to pursue collecting that money through small claims courts, beginning in March.
The state law does not address rent increases, which would remain a county supervisors’ function.
On Tuesday, a number of public commenters urged the county board to extend the eviction and rent increase prohibitions, via an “urgency ordinance” they hope will also close some loopholes in the state law.
“The impact of COVID is racially disparate, especially for our essential workers,” Mariana Moore, director of the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa, told the supervisors.
Many said the people most helped by these moratoriums are often affected Supervisors essentially agreed, and asked Mary Ann Mason, the county’s chief assistant counsel, to return with a draft urgency ordinance that could be approved Sept. 22, nine days before the county’s current protections expire.
“We should become consistent with the state as the state takes more of a role” in eviction protections, County Supervisor Diane Burgis said.
Supervisor John Gioia also asked that the county become a “clearinghouse of information” about what the county eviction ordinance and the state Assembly Bill 3088 provide for, and don’t provide for, and how they relate to one another.