The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved another eviction moratorium extension on Tuesday that would end either by Nov. 30 or when the state’s moratorium expires, whichever is earlier.
Currently, the statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire on Sept. 30, but county leaders are anticipating an extension on that policy as well.
The moratorium comes as the county endures humanitarian crises of homelessness, with more that 43,000 rental units at risk of eviction because of Covid-19-related costs and job loss, according to a 2020 study by the nonprofits Working Partnerships USA and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.
Representatives from local nonprofits and advocacy groups like Sacred Heart, Silicon Valley at Home, Bay Area Legal Aid, Project Sentinel, High School Democrats of Santa Clara County, and others voiced their support for the extension and urged county leaders to do more to support those at risk of eviction via proceedings known as unlawful detainer actions.
Rent Stabilization Program Manager from Project Sentinel Emily Hislop said:
“Even though there is an eviction moratorium in place, there is a lot of fear out there and even with the moratorium extended, with the court being opened, there is going to be an increase of UD’s filed. We are certain of this from the stories we are heard.”
Hislop also shared that the nonprofit, which helps mediate disputes between tenants and landlords among other housing support, conducted a study and found that 48 percent of Santa Clara County tenants and landlords were concerned with nonpayment of rent, eviction or termination.
“We encourage the board to look at options if the Legislature does not act, perhaps maybe a mandatory mediation requirement prior to filing a UD to provide a stop gap and delay things for a bit longer.”
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed county staff to come back with a report next month on ways to expand mediation services for landlords and tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic. As it stands now, mediation is voluntary and non-binding.
Supervisor Dave Cortese said:
“During these challenging times, tensions may be running high for both tenants and landlords. … Sometimes all it takes is getting the two sides to sit down and work out a solution.”
But there are still concerns on how tenants will fare once the courts open and hear eviction cases, if the state does not extend its eviction moratorium and eviction court closures.
Scott Largent, who started living on the streets when his business fell due to financial hardship, said:
“Once the dam breaks and everybody is going to be pulled into that civil courtroom, remember when you are poor, you do not get a lawyer in Santa Clara County. … So, we are going to sit all these people on that bench and just set them up for the slaughter there and then they will need to turn to nonprofits.”
County leaders said they are hopeful that rent relief will come from the state in the next month as legislators discuss California Senate Bill 1410, which could support 80 percent of some qualifying residents’ rent for seven months.
Proposed legislation like California Assembly Bill 1436 and California Senate Bill 939 also aim to protect residential and commercial tenants from eviction but have also not yet been signed into law.
Supervisor Joseph Simitian said:
“There are limits to what we can do as a county. We are trying to work creatively and flexibly to work within those limits. … But we really do need our state and federal legislators to step up and give us something more in the way of addressing the mortgage forbearance and forgiveness issues.”