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Contra Costa County suspends evictions, rent increases amid coronavirus shutdown

San Jose Mercury News - Contra Costa County on Tuesday approved an urgency ordinance that temporarily prohibits evictions of residential and commercial tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and stops rent increases.

The ordinance is similar to those already passed by San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Clara counties, as well as some cities including Oakland, Concord, Richmond Pittsburg and Antioch.

The ordinance bars landlords and sublessors from kicking out tenants who fail to pay rent if they can show they lost income or have to field “substantial” medical expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tenants must provide documentation to prove their loss of income or out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to the ordinance. Supervisors said a form, like one Santa Clara County has created, could quickly be made available on the county website for renters to use. Other documentation could include pay stubs, bank statements or a notice from an employer.

The Pandemic Makes Clear What We Already Knew: The Rent Is Too Damn High

In the Bay Area—the most expensive place to live in the U.S—residents are going on a #RentStrike.

YES! Magazine - Terra Thomas, a florist in Oakland, California, doesn’t know when she’ll receive her next paycheck, a concerning predicament millions of Americans are now facing. 

“It’s terrifying for sure,” she says. 

Even before Bay Area officials announced a shelter-in-place order on March 16—to start the next day—Thomas was already noticing her event’s calendar thinning out. As a florist, she had weddings, graduations, and other special occasions booked for the rest of the year, but as the news of the coronavirus spread, her clients started canceling. 

Because of her precarious situation, Thomas, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who had been initially striking against her corporate landlord Mosser Companies Inc. over repairs and other negligence with her neighbors before quarantining, decided to withhold paying her April rent. 

“I need to allocate my money for food, health care and other necessities, not to pay rent to corporate landlords,” she says.  

Thomas pays $833 a month in rent. She’s lived in her building for seven years and is under rent control. Still, even with rent control, coming up with that kind of cash without income is a prospect Thomas never saw herself having to consider. 

The Bay Area continues to be one of the most expensive places to rent in the country, with the average cost of $3,446 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Many low-income renters live paycheck-to-paycheck. Like Thomas, a growing number of tenants in the Bay Area, around California, and a beginning of a movement throughout the country are rent striking—proactively choosing to not pay rent. 

 

Inside the national rent-strike movement: Red thermometers, tenant manuals & more

 

The Real Deal - Editor’s Note: This story originally published on April 10, 2020. On April 16, news broke of Housing Justice For All and the Philadelphia Tenant Union’s planned rent strikes for May 1. 

“Escalating actions help,” the union wrote in the manual released last week, at a time when landlords are grappling with nonpayment of rent. “Many tenants who are hesitant about an action that is ‘too radical’ may be radicalized when the group decides to settle on a less scary step first, and find it doesn’t meet their needs.” The union suggests incremental efforts such as “simultaneously paying rent late on the same day” and “car protest circling landlord’s house” and offers a thermometer graphic to help tenants keep progress on the way to a rent strike. The maximal point? “Celebrate victory!”

Rents Are Late, and ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse’

     

 

The New York Times - First it was the waitress whose restaurant closed. Then the waiter, the bartender, the substitute teacher, the hairdresser, the tattoo artist and the Walgreens manager.

One after the other, the tenants called and emailed their landlord, Bruce Brunner, to say they were out of work and the rent was going to be late. A week after the bill was due, some two dozen of Mr. Brunner’s 130 tenants had lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. He’s working out payment plans and using security deposits as a stopgap while directing tenants to the emerging patchwork of local, state and federal assistance programs.

“Six weeks ago, you could name your price and you’d have multiple people applying,” said Mr. Brunner, who lives in Minneapolis, where he owns and manages 20 duplexes and triplexes across the city. “Now you’re deferring and working out payment plans, and it’s only going to get worse.”

One week after the first of the month, tenants nationwide are already struggling with rents. In interviews with two dozen landlords — including companies with tens of thousands of units, nonprofit developers who house the working poor, and mom-and-pop operators living next door to their tenants — property owners say their collections have plunged as much of the economy has shut down to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

State and local eviction moratoriums may not be enough to stop a ‘tsunami of evictions and foreclosures’

Sacramento News & Review - Despite actions by Gov. Gavin Newsom and local politicians throughout the state, an untold number of California residents could lose their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom issued two executive orders last month pausing the enforcement of court-ordered evictions through May 31 for tenants unable to pay their rents or mortgages due to COVID-19. In Sacramento County, these “unlawful detainer” court filings, as they’re officially known, have been trending downward since the Great Recession and were at some of their lowest levels at the start of 2020. But then the coronavirus began spreading here, forcing a halt to daily life and costing more than one million Californians their jobs in just two weeks.

Newsom’s executive actions were meant to reassure residents they wouldn’t be forced onto the streets during a global health crisis in which people are being urged to stay home. But the governor’s orders don’t actually prevent the eviction process from unfolding; they just give vulnerable tenants extra time—60 days instead of five—to respond to legal eviction notices filed in court during the state emergency.

Monday, the Judicial Council of California extended that grace period to 90 days.

TENANTS PLAN RENT STRIKES IN CALIFORNIA DESPITE EVICTION DELAYS DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Newsweek - California tenants are planning rent strikes as spiking unemployment and economic uncertainty have left many facing financial troubles. Activists have suggested that measures taken to protect renters in the state during the pandemic need to go further, with one renters' union co-founder telling The Guardian that California had to "do right by a majority of its constituents."

Several outlets have also reported that the rent strikes are due to take place this month in some of the Golden State's largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has led to business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, initial jobless claims have soared to recording breaking levels, with more than three million recorded in the week ending March 21.

The Rent Is Due. But Some Tenants Who Lost Their Jobs Say They’re Not Paying.

CapRadio - Just a few weeks ago, Uma Tufekcic was hustling two jobs: at a restaurant and an art gallery in Sacramento. Then, like millions across the globe, the coronavirus crisis yanked the rug out from under her.

Now, she has no income. She isolates at home every day with her kitten, Iris, and occasionally paints or sneaks out for a walk in the park. 

But on Wednesday, it’s time to pay her landlord: $900 for her Midtown studio apartment.

“I have rent due on the first like everybody else,” Tufekcic said. “And I need to be saving my little bit of savings for buying food, survival things.”

She has a plan.

“What I'm going to do,” she said, “is I'm going to not pay my rent.”

She and other tenants are calling this decision a “rent strike,” something residents across the country are considering as the rent comes due in this coronavirus era. 

Coronavirus Rent Strike in the Bay Area: Tenants ‘Giving the Governor Notice’

KQED - April 1 is the day rent is due for many around the Bay Area, but in the midst of a statewide shelter-in-place order, many are hard pressed to pay. Instead of suffering silently, however, some Bay Area tenants are launching a campaign to withhold rent.

A group of at least 20 calling themselves rent strikers are issuing Gov. Gavin Newsom their own 30-day notice to cancel all rent and mortgage payments during the current public health crisis. If he fails to act, renters across the state are planning to withhold rent payments beginning on May 1.

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