Mayor London Breed on Friday enacted a moratorium on evictions of tenants who are unable to pay rent due to impacts from the coronavirus.
Breed is using her legal authority under a Feb. 25 local emergency declaration to prevent landlords from evicting any resident who is unable to pay rent as a result of losing income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The prohibition is in place for an initial 30-day period, and Breed could extend it for an additional 30 days.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco have increased from the first two reported last Thursday to 23 reported as of Friday morning. The local economy has taken a hit as a result of the spread and measures taken by health officials to encourage people to stay home, telecommute and cancel events of 250 or more. Hotel occupancy rates have dropped to as low as 20 percent, lower than after 9/11, and the convention industry has shut down until at least mid-May.
Hotels alone in San Francisco employ about 25,000 people.
The moratorium will prevent any resident from being evicted who has lost income as result of a business closure, a reduction of hours or wages, layoffs or medical expenses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Protecting public health means keeping people secure in their housing, which we know is a challenge right now as our economy and our workers are being severely impacted by this crisis,” Breed said in a statement. “This all part of our larger plan to provide support and resources to everyone in our city who is suffering under the spread of COVID-19.”
In order to take advantage of the moratorium, a tenant must first tell their landlord that they cannot make rent due to the impact of COVID-19. Within one week of the notice, the tenant is required to provide some form of proof they cannot pay rent.
Tenants will still have to pay the rent owed at some point. They have until six months after the emergency declaration is terminated to repay any back due rent.
The eviction moratorium has drawn support from a number of groups, including the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Legal Assistance to the Elderly.
“All of LAE’s clients fall into a high risk group,” said Laura Chiera, executive director of Legal Assistance to the Elderly, in a statement. “We have been extremely worried for their health and safety during this time when it is difficult to access resources and support. We believe that this eviction moratorium is a critical life-saving action.”
Supervisor Dean Preston, who called for similar protections earlier this week, praised Breed and called it an “important step to provide immediate protections for tenants who are unable to pay rent due to this health crisis.”
“I look forward to working with the Mayor and my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors on further efforts to keep people in their homes during this difficult time,” he said.
In previous economic conditions, failure to pay rent or pay rent on time was a small subset of the overall tenant evictions. In fiscal year 2018-2019, there were 1,544 evictions filed with the rent board, of which 83 were for non-payment of rent and 32 for habitual late rent payments.
Breed’s eviction moratorium is part of a growing effort to enact similar protections throughout the state.
On Thursday, state Sen. Scott Wiener issued a statement calling for a state and federal moratorium on foreclosures along with residential and commercial evictions.
“As we move through the COVID-19 emergency, people must be able to focus on our community’s health — slowing the virus’s spread — and not on economic survival,” Wiener said. “Yet more and more California workers and businesses are being forced to choose between protecting public health and paying the mortgage or rent.”