With Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis’ signature, California extended its eviction moratorium Thursday through June.
The moment was particularly historic: Lt. Gov. Kounalakis is the first woman in California’s history to sign legislation into law. She is serving as the acting governor while Gov. Gavin Newsom is out of the state on a family vacation.
“California’s nation-leading rent relief program has provided much-needed relief for more than 220,00 households across the state,” Lt. Gov. Kounalakis said. “Today’s action will provide additional time to thousands more who are in the process of acquiring emergency relief.”
AB 2179 from Assemblymember Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, extends the eviction protections to those who had already applied for state or local assistance by March 31.
The bill passed the Senate earlier Thursday.
“California is leading the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and we’re committed to ensuring all of our communities can access the supports they need to get back on their feet,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “Today’s action preserves important protections so that struggling families can keep a roof over their heads as the state works to provide critical assistance to thousands of households across California.”
Also on Thursday, Attorney General Rob Bonta said he has sent “warning letters” to 91 law firms throughout California that represent landlords in eviction cases. He said his office had been informed that some firms and clients may be violating the law in evictions by falsely claiming tenants had not properly notified them of pending emergency rental assistance applications.
“We have reason to believe that some landlords and their attorneys may be filing false declarations to push hardworking Californians out of their homes,” Attorney General Bonta said. “This is unacceptable, and more importantly, absolutely illegal. California families were already struggling with the high cost of housing before the pandemic, and these past two years have already made things worse.”
Attorney General Bonta said the Housing Strike Force is investigating these claims and his office will take any necessary action.
Attorney General Bonta launched the Housing Strike Force in November, under the California Department of Justice umbrella.
Already, California’s $5.5 billion COVID-19 Rent Relief program has helped more than 220,000 low-income households, according to the Governor’s Office.
Advocates, during a recent local League of Women Voters forum, said more affordable housing options are needed in the Santa Barbara area for low- to moderate-income residents as well as greater protections for renters.
Stanley Tzankov, co-founder of the Santa Barbara Tenants Union and CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), said landlords have an incentive to remove current tenants in order to re-list their properties at a higher price. Because of this, and the high-cost market in general, renters are afraid to voice concerns or maintenance requests to landlords because they do not want to lose their current housing, Mr. Tzankov said.
Of Thursday’s historic moment of being the first woman to sign a law in California’s history, Lt. Gov. Kounalakis said, “I remain more determined than ever to ensure that while I may be the first to do so, I will certainly not be the last.”