Following the signing of one of the strongest statewide tenant protection measures in the country, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of the “Housing is Key” campaign aimed at connecting renters and landlords experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19 with helpful information and resources. The campaign will be run by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH) and kicks off with a new website and social media ads targeting vulnerable communities. “Struggling tenants and landlords now have new protections and relief under the law – and it’s critical that all Californians learn their rights,” said Governor Newsom.
“It’s important that we reach renters across the state who might be one paycheck away from losing their homes and landlords who are short on their mortgages because of owed rent. Housing is Key will begin the public education campaign that will ramp up in the weeks to come and target vulnerable communities who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.” On Monday, Governor Newsom signed AB 3088 to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. These protections apply to tenants who declare an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason. “Having a home is fundamental to all that we do,” said BCSH Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez. “During this pandemic and continued economic crisis it is more important than ever to provide people with the accurate, up-to-date information they need to connect to resources to stay housed or to access safe, stable, affordable housing.”
Tenants and landlords can learn more about the new Tenant, Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 by visiting COVID19.ca.gov or going directly to HousingIsKey.com. Later this week, BCSH will also launch a mobile and web based app, available on the website, to help landlords and tenants. It will include a personalized, downloadable report that explains what protections or obligations apply under the new law by answering a few questions. The campaign will include targeted social media ads and digital materials in multiple languages to be rolled out in the coming weeks. Under the new law, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines.
For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction after February 1, 2021 for the unpaid rent. Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act. The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.
Additional resources are on the way for struggling homeowners and renters. Governor Newsom and the Legislature made available $331 million from the National Mortgage Settlement for housing counseling, mortgage assistance and renter legal aid services. A housing counseling program administered by the California Housing Finance Agency will launch this fall and mortgage assistance will be available to help distressed households next year. The $31 million for renter legal aid services will be distributed by the Judicial Council to qualified legal aid organizations in the coming months.
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