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More evictions barred in SF during coronavirus spread

No-fault removals off limits under new order, but some politicos want more aggressive protections

San Francisco Tops New Survey Of Highest U.S. Home Rental Prices Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, SF lawmakers moved this week to expand the parameters of the city’s eviction moratorium. Mayor London Breed announced on Monday that no-fault evictions are barred during this period.

Previously, City Hall issued an eviction moratorium that protects from eviction due to nonpayment of rent for renters “directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”

However, that still left some avenues for landlords to remove non-paying tenants through other means like by moving into the unit themselves. Now such “no-fault” evictions are off the table.

The order extends through mid-April, though the city could extend the order. Landlords may still initiate eviction for reasons like criminal activity or “health and safety issues.”

“We made it clear: No one should lose their home during this state of emergency,” said Supervisor Dean Preston in an emailed statement. Preston called for such an expanded moratorium minutes after Breed announced the initial set of protections.

According to the SF Rent Board’s annual eviction report, out of 1,592 eviction attempts in SF in 2019, 212 were attempted owner move-ins, 154 were Ellis Act removals, 181 were for capital improvement work, two were condo conversions, and one was due to demolition.

Over the past two weeks there’s been a pile-up of attempts at renter and homeowner protections that can be difficult to sort out. Here’s what you need to know.

  • In San Francisco right now, landlords may not remove tenants who miss rent payments, provided renters have been “directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” such as medical expenses, reduced working hours, or layoffs due to the ongoing shelter-in-place order. Non-paying renters must notify their landlord of their inability to pay within 30 days, and must also provide documentation about the nature of their financial or medical hardship within seven days of that notice. Once the moratorium expires, renters have 30 days to pay back rent or to apply for a 30-day extension, up to a period of six months.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued last week also allows for similar protections for homeowners as well as renters, but individual municipalities must enact such protections on their own. The federal government presently has a moratorium in place on foreclosures for homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or Federal Housing Administration mortgages on single-family homes nationwide.
  • Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney are pushing for the state and federal government to issue a complete freeze on rent and mortgage payments for the time being. This would apply to everyone, not just those directly affected by COVID-19 and related mitigation efforts. The pair will introduce new legislation at Tuesday’s (remote) Board of Supervisors meeting providing more detail on the proposal. As Ronen said via Twitter, “We need a rent & mortgage freeze so millions of people don’t come out of this crisis unemployed, drowning in debt & absolutely f***ed.” (Asterisks in original.)
  • Finally, on Monday Oakland-based Congressperson Barbara Lee introduced a new bill to the House of Representatives that would freeze evictions nationwide. Lee’s legislation would stall all evictions for any reason except those related to criminality and basic safety. The moratorium would be part of a larger, multi-trillion dollar coronavirus-relief package offered by the House. “We must ensure that everyone has access to quality housing no matter their financial situation,” said Lee.

If you have received an eviction notice during the shelter-in-place order, please read Curbed SF’s guide to rent relief during to coronavirus crisis.

Correction: Ellis Act removals, though considered “no-fault,” are not currently barred, though the city is asking the state to suspend them for the time being as well.