Q: I lost my part time job due to COVID-19 and I was using that income to supplement my social security and pay my bills. Is it true that no one can be evicted right now because of new COVID rules?

A: Legislation was signed by Governor Gavin Newson that extends protection of tenants from eviction specifically due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. The protections were extended to February of 2021. However, it is not meant to exclude all evictions for other reasons.

Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February due to rent owed specifically due to a COVID-19 related financial hardship. The tenant must provide a declaration of hardship in writing to the landlord. However, if the hardship occurred between September 1st of 2020 and January 31st of 2021, then the tenant must pay at least 25 percent of the rent owed to avoid eviction.

It is important to understand that tenants are still responsible for the rent back owed and landlords can start to collect this debt on March 1st of 2021.  If you can keep up with rental payments, then it is in your best interest to do so, and avoid accruing this debt.

Some may misunderstand this eviction moratorium to mean that no one can be evicted for any reason. However, as of September 2nd, landlords can proceed with evictions due to other lease violations.

If you find yourself in a position where you unable to pay your rent or the full amount of your rent due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 then be careful to understand your rights and follow the guidelines to ensure you can maintain your housing. The Housing Rights Center has helpful resources and you can learn more at https://www.housingrightscenter.org/covid-19 or by calling them at 1-800-477-5977.

Some cities are setting up their own rental assistance programs to help pay some of the rent for tenants who cannot afford to do so. This helps both the renter and the landlord. Thousand Oaks just opened a rental assistance program and applications are being accepted until November 16th. You can learn more at www.toaks.org/rent.

Many cities had rental assistance programs earlier in the pandemic and they have since been closed. You can call your city’s housing department directly to inquire if they have any plans for additional programs. The need is ongoing and there is much concern that even when March 2021 comes around the tenants who have struggled to afford their rent will not have new resources available to help them with what they now owe. This could potentially cause more people to lose their housing.

It may be helpful to know that the Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura (AHA) will be accepting applications from November 3, 2020 through November 16, 2020 to be placed on the waiting list for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program for those that qualify. The AHA serves the cities of Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County. Applications are online at onlineportal.ahacv.org. Even getting on the waiting list will still mean it is most likely years before receiving a voucher, so think ahead and apply if this may needed in the future.

If you are struggling to pay your rent, reach out as soon as possible for help and guidance. Be sure you know your rights and your responsibilities before making any decisions.

Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.


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