California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers face an 18-day deadline to pass a plan that will keep tenants housed during the coronavirus crisis after the Judicial Council announced Thursday it would allow courts to resume eviction and foreclosure cases on Sept. 2.
The council first voted in April to temporarily halt eviction and foreclosure court proceedings because of the pandemic. After delaying the vote in June to end the moratorium, the council decided in a 19-1 vote this week to expire the rules at the start of next month.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement that the responsibility to provide the security for millions of California renters should now be determined by the Legislature and Newsom.
“I promised the Governor that we would assume this responsibility with the greatest care,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “The judicial branch cannot usurp the responsibility of the other two branches on a long-term basis to deal with the myriad impacts of the pandemic. The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate.”
Lawmakers are debating two proposals to avoid an “eviction tsunami” that advocates warn California will face if Newsom fails to sign a law protecting tenants.
Senate Bill 1410, a Democratic plan to have the state assume unpaid rent and allow tenants to repay missed checks over 10 years starting in 2024, is now in the Assembly. In exchange for agreeing not to evict their renters, landlords would get future tax credits.
The Assembly has its own more immediate plan with Assembly Bill 1436. That proposal would prohibit evictions and certain foreclosures through the end of the coronavirus state of emergency, plus three months, or between March 4, 2020 and April 2021, whichever deadline comes first.
The legislative session ends Aug. 31.
“I am grateful the Judicial Council is waiting until after our legislative session ends to rescind their order,” Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said in a Thursday statement. “This gives us the necessary time to pass a bill to prevent evictions and foreclosures without a gap in protections.”
Nearly 1 million renters having experienced job loss during the pandemic, according to a recent study from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, and advocates warn California’s most vulnerable residents could soon be pushed out on the streets.
Around 411,000 households were already “rent-burdened” before the pandemic, meaning they spent at least 30% of their income on housing. Another 239,200 households were added to that list since March, the study notes.
Newsom at a Wednesday press conference declined to provide details on negotiations he was having with legislators, but said he was committed to signing economic recovery initiatives being worked on in the Capitol.
“We have just a couple of weeks left…in this legislative session,” Newsom said. “We have to get to work. We have to roll up our sleeves now and get this package across the finish line.”
By Hannah Wiley, The Sacramento Bee