County outlines tenant protections

Another grim report about housing in Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County’s daily update on Friday went in-depth on efforts to protect tenants struggling to pay rent during COVID-19.

Destination: Home head Jennifer Loving joined County staffers Mariel Caballero and Chris Cheleden to discuss some available resources.

Loving discussed the joint effort of Destination: Home with Sacred Heart Community Services to start a relief fund. The fund has a wide range of resources available, including rental and financial assistance. Loving said that the group received more than 4,500 applications in the first three days, exhausting the $11 million fund. Those initial support awards are processing and on their way out to families.

While the economic toll of the pandemic has hit across the income spectrum, with job losses in every industry, some families may be in better circumstances. Loving hopes those with means will step up to donate to those who have fared less well in recent months.

Eviction moratorium through May 31

Lead Deputy County Counsel Chris Cheleden outlined a number of efforts the Board of Supervisors has taken to support renters.

On March 24, the Board passed an eviction moratorium, which applies to both residential and commercial tenants. To qualify for protection tenants must have suffered substantial financial income loss due to COVID-19. That could be due to loss of a job or hours, coronavirus medical expenses, or increased family or childcare obligations.

The moratorium, which runs currently runs through May 31, prohibits evictions for qualifying tenants and gives renters 120 days after the moratorium expires to pay back rent.

Landlords are required to let tenants know of their rights and resources before any eviction proceeding. Similarly, renters must provide a county-sponsored document to landlords letting them know of the income loss preventing rental payment.

“[The] goal of the county is to improve communication between the landlord and the tenant, so that it doesn’t become a very adversarial relationship,” Cheleden said.

Some West Valley cities, including San Jose, passed their own eviction moratoria. Residents should consult city-specific moratoria first before seeing if the County’s is more protective. Cupertino’s City Council considered their own moratorium but ended up deferring to the County’s effort.

Looking to the future

Loving and Cheleden both noted that actions taken thus far likely would not be nearly enough. Lower-wage workers are most likely to face issues paying rent in this crisis, despite making up an outsized percentage of essential workers at food delivery and grocery companies.

“The moratorium is great. And I also think we’re also going to have to look at what rental relief from the state legislature, from federal stimulus,” said Loving.

“It will be very hard to come up with rent after this crisis is over. So I hope that this is the beginning of the protections that we’re offering, but we’re all going to be working together to make sure that people do not lose their homes for no fault of their own,” she continued.

Cheleden focused in on the continued need for affordable housing solutions that have long evaded West Valley leaders.

“We were already before covid-19 facing such a significant hosing crisis in northern California and this has only exacerbated that,” he said.