Anti-eviction demonstrators rally outside the courthouse across from City Hall on Monday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Protest calls for end to evictions during pandemic, rent forgiveness

San Francisco tenants on Monday gathered outside San Francisco Superior Court and held a caravan to protest against ongoing evictions that fall outside state protections.

Court hearings on eviction proceedings were suspended for months during the pandemic state of emergency, but the Judicial Council of California rescinded those rules effective Sept. 1. Even during that time, many eviction cases not covered by state coronavirus protections were still moving forward.

Evictions in California over non-payment of rent due to financial hardship caused by coronavirus are prohibited, if tenants submit the right paperwork. San Francisco also has its own protections in place. But that still leaves owner move-in evictions, Ellis Act evictions and nuisance or public safety evictions.

“Sometimes landlords and tenants have different opinions on what nuisance is,” said Joy Lee, an organizer with Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “We’re seeing a lot of landlords use this type of eviction as a kind of harassment. Sometimes it’s really hard for a tenant to defend against an accusation.”

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The protesters organized by HRC, the Veritas Tenant Association, and the Westside Tenants Association also argued for rent forgiveness, particularly from corporate landlords like Veritas. The caravan snaked its way to Veritas headquarters at One Bush Street.

One tenant, Jasper Wilde, said he has been unable to pay rent since April and feels pressure from his landlord to pay the $14,000 in back rent.

“The pressure from my landlord to pay is a reminder that I am not seen as someone going through a difficult financial time but as a source of revenue from which to extract profits from,” Wilde said in a statement.

Lee said that they’re getting a lot of inquiries from tenants confused by the state and local protections. The California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 3088 just before the legislative deadline at the end of August to limit nonpayment evictions between September and February, but the rules are complicated and confusing for tenants and advocates alike.

“When we lose the means to pay rent or make our mortgage payments, we should not lose the right to have a roof over our heads,” said Don Misumi of Richmond District Rising.

For assistance from tenant counselors, visit the San Francisco Rent Board’s list of referral organizations.

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