‘The government confiscating this house’: Landlords losing out as eviction moratoriums extended

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FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Fresno was awarded $15.8 million in federal funds for rental assistance, coming at a time when renters are desperate for help and many landlords have gone up to 10 months without payment.

“That’s the American Dream, to own your home,” said landlord Robert Givens.

Givens is retired. He and his wife moved from their first home seven years ago and decided to rent it rather than sell. The income from renting the house was helping to pay the bills on their new one.

“I’m 67 years old, a senior citizen, disabled, and I depend on this property for income,” Givens said.

But for ten months now, there has been no income.

California’s AB 3088 provides an eviction moratorium through the end of January, preventing Givens from collecting rent or evicting tenants. His tenants now owe $15,300 in unpaid rent since the pandemic.

A pair of assembly bills aim to extend California’s moratorium, one of them proposes an extension through all of 2021.

“There is no other industry, service, or provider, that has been asked to give it away for free in California,” Debra Carlton, Executive Vice President of the California Apartment Association, said. “This is one of those situations that has certainly put landlords at a loss.”

Carlton says there has been zero state or federal aid available to landlords for ten months, until Fresno was awarded that $15.8 million.

“Personally I don’t think, based on the need in Fresno, $15.8 million is enough,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said. “But we’ll see, we’ll stretch those dollars as much as we can.”

Reports show between 240,000 and 700,000 California households are at risk of eviction for failing to pay rent.

That’s an estimated 2 million Californians at risk of losing housing.

“We’re for sure going to need another $2 billion, and that’s just back rent, that’s not even looking into 2021,” Carlton said.

Mayor Jerry Dyer says he understands renters affected by the pandemic are struggling to pay bills.

“We have far too many homeless people on our streets today and we do not need to add to them by people simply falling on hard times and not being able to pay rent,” Dyer said.

But for Givens, it’s no longer about the payments but the premise.

“For the government to say I can’t collect the rent, I can’t evict the person, but I have to pay the taxes, that’s the government confiscating this house from me,” Givens said.

Givens paid more than $3,000 in taxes on the property he is renting out and just wants to sell. But with tenants inside not paying rent, the value of his house has dropped significantly.

Potential buyers are quoting him $60,000 to $80,000 under market value.

“That’s what I want is my property back so I can sell it at a decent price and then I can move on with life,” Givens said.

In the meantime, Carlton is eyeing this legislative session.

“No one’s fault, admittedly no one’s fault,” Carlton said. “But unfortunately, the laws have really created a challenging situation for the rental housing industry.”

She says more action from lawmakers is needed and says it’s crucial in preventing a housing crisis that could be on the horizon.

On Wednesday, President Biden signed an executive order that would extend the eviction moratorium through the end of March.

Carlton is in support of an extension in the moratorium – as long as there is rental assistance also available. The new coronavirus stimulus plan, announced by President Biden last week, would allocate $25 billion in rental assistance.

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