The Slow End of the Eviction Moratoria in Alameda County: Now What?

Piggy bank and orange note written with MORATORIA..

After several extensions and several years, the eviction moratoria in Alameda County has now ended. The City of Oakland will phase its own moratoria out over the course of the next few months. The City of Berkeley will also phase out over the next several months.

In an effort to avoid a perceived ‘wave of evictions,’ the end of these moratoria comes with some significant caveats. For the most part, rents that came due during the time a moratorium was in effect cannot serve as the basis for terminating a tenancy after the moratorium has ended. Tenants are not relieved of their obligation to pay these amounts, but they will continue to be only ‘consumer debts’ that housing providers can pursue recovery of in court. That means a housing provider may be entitled to a judgment for the money, but not for possession of the rental unit in question. While this can be an effective tool with which to negotiate, it is a far cry from returning a property owner what he or she was initially promised by the rental agreement: the payment of rent in exchange for occupancy.

In addition to ending Oakland’s moratorium, the City imposed new ‘just cause’ limitations. These limitations further restrict the ability of housing providers to recover possession of their rental units. They will do so by setting a minimum threshold below which non-payment evictions are prohibited, by extending the application of COVID-based defenses in non-payment cases, and by limiting the termination of tenancies based on breaches of lease provisions.

These phased endings, with their important limitations, will indeed stave off any influx or barrage of post-COVID lease terminations. We have already seen an absence of any such “wave of evictions” in other jurisdictions, undercutting the argument that supposedly justified them in the first place. Of equal concern, however, is the manner in which these phased endings will also continue to force property owners to bear the as-of-yet unreimbursed cost of providing rental housing for Bay Area residents. The initial attempts at reimbursing housing providers for these costs were appreciated and noble, but proved woefully inadequate to meet even a fraction of the accumulated debt. Litigation is ongoing, and will only increase, as property owners rightfully seek out a remedy for the deprivation of their most basic and fundamental right as housing providers: the monthly payment of rent. While the fallacy of the “wave of evictions” is likely to be shown to be just that, there is nonetheless a wave coming, if no imminent relief is offered to housing providers.

If you would like to learn more about how these laws may affect your property, you should contact Scott A. Freedman at Zacks & Freedman, PC for guidance. Contact us at your convenience to request a consultation.

Neither this website nor this post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship.