Berkeley rent board discusses future of nonpayment evictions

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Sunny Shen/File
According to Brian Augusta, under AB 3088 tenants with unpaid rent due to COVID-19-related financial issues from March 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, cannot be evicted if they meet certain criteria.

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Bridging the gap between state and local legislation, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board discussed the latest in COVID-19 eviction policy and how it will impact residents for the remainder of 2020.

During the rent board’s Thursday meeting, which was dedicated to Berkeley political activist David Mundstock, rent board legislative advocate Brian Augusta presented the board with a summary of Assembly Bill 3088. The board’s acting Executive Director Matthew Brown also addressed a recommendation concerning the collection of data about units exempt from rent control and their tenants if Measure MM is adopted in the November general election.

Approved by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 31, AB 3088 limits COVID-19-related nonpayment evictions, prohibits no-fault evictions and expands AB 1482’s just cause provisions to all tenants, Augusta said.

Augusta added that tenants with unpaid rent due to COVID-19-related financial issues from March 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, cannot be evicted if they meet certain criteria. Additionally, evictions for nonpayment cannot resume until Feb. 1, 2021.

For a tenant to meet specific criteria, however, Augusta said they must submit a declaration to identify the connection between nonpayment and the COVID-19 pandemic every month that their landlord gives them a 15-day notice to pay rent or quit.

On top of that, tenants must pay 25% of their total unpaid rent by Jan. 31, 2021, a provision rent board chair Paola Laverde said was not a “fair compromise.”

“You know, 25% of a really expensive rent is a lot of money and if you’ve lost your job, that just sounds crazy to me,” Laverde said during the meeting. “Landlords, they are providing this housing service, I understand that, but when you have people who don’t have jobs anymore, I’m afraid to see the number of massive evictions that we’re going to see starting February.”

In the meantime, Augusta said, any unpaid rent will be converted to consumer debt that landlords can later pursue in civil or small claims court. The repayment period in Berkeley will end either 12 months after the local state of emergency ends or March 31, 2022, whichever comes first.

In terms of legislation that has yet to be passed, the board discussed registering and collecting data about partially exempt properties and their tenants, including new construction, single-family homes and condominiums if Measure MM is passed this November, Brown said.

Brown added, however, that although Civil Code Section 1947.7 ensures tenant confidentiality, he is not certain this would extend to tenants of partially exempt units.

“In the event that we would be required by the (California Public Records Act) laws to disclose information, we would strongly recommend that the board not request any tenant information,” Brown said during the meeting. “We would just ask for information regarding the rent and the services and the start date and so forth.”

The next rent board meeting will be held Oct. 15.

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.