COVID-19 rental relief ends March 31, evictions expected to rise locally
California’s last remaining pandemic eviction protections are set to expire by the end of the month.
March 31 is the deadline for renters and landlords to apply for state financial assistance for rent and utilities that haven’t been paid due to a pandemic-related hardship.
Sadie Weller is a staff attorney with San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation, or SLOLAF. She said affected renters should apply for assistance before the deadline. But delays with the program’s application approval system could mean tenants still face eviction in the coming months.
“There is sort of a gap in protections for tenants who have applied for the rental assistance on time but have not yet reached that approved status," Weller said.
She said the number of evictions will depend on whether landlords decide to take legal action before renters get their applications approved, which can be a lengthy process.
Robert is a Grover Beach resident who applied for rental relief with his partner Rylee. It took four months to be approved and they received an eviction notice because of the delay. It was later dismissed but Robert said the experience was difficult.
“I don’t wanna be served with an eviction again. I don’t want to go through dealing with all that. So it really took a toll on me,” Robert said.
Devon McQuade is the Associate Director of the 5Cities Homeless Coalition, a local non-profit that has helped more than 200 rent relief applicants with the state’s program. She said they are seeing huge approval delays, putting tenants at risk of eviction when the protections expire.
“We’re still seeing, on March 17, nearly 40 percent still haven’t been reviewed,” McQuade said.
McQuade said there are thousands of people in San Luis Obispo County who are in need of COVID-19 rental assistance and she’s worried the delays in the state’s system will have long-lasting impacts for households.
“I do think we’re going to see a lot of families that end up moving out or doubling-up with other household members," McQuade said. "We see that a lot in our community already, with rent prices that are so high. And once a family becomes homeless it is incredibly difficult to get back into housing.”
Even if an application for rental relief has been submitted and approved, SLOLAF attorneys say eviction protections are not automatic. If a tenant is served with an eviction lawsuit, they must file a court response within five days.
For information on eviction protections in San Luis Obispo County:
San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation
Self-Help Center, San Luis Obispo Superior Court