California landlord says tenants owe $100,000 in rent but can’t evict them due to COVID-19 protections
She spoke to tenants, housing organizers and the assembly member behind AB 2179 – the housing assistance program that protects tenants from eviction until June 30 while they wait for help from the state. On Wednesday, she spoke to a landlord who hasn’t been paid for over 20 months.
In 1986, Gary R. bought his dream home in Pleasanton. A four bedroom house with swimming pool and mountain views.
36 years later, his dream home is now a revenue property, but for the past 26 months he has not earned any income.
“For over two years I’ve had tenants who haven’t paid a single dollar,” Gary said.
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Gary said the couple renting the house have a business and the woman has a steady job, but is refusing to pay citing COVID rent protection laws.
“They’re very aware that they don’t have to pay because I can’t kick them out and they do. They do me on purpose and it hurts,” Gary said.
Luz Pena: “How much do they owe?”
Gary: “It’s over $100,000. That’s a lot of money.”
Luz Pena: “Does it keep you up at night?”
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Gary: “Yeah, I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Yeah. I just don’t know. I’ve told everyone about it and there’s nothing you can do. there’s nothing you can do.”
He applied for the state’s “Housing is Key” program, but found he didn’t qualify. His property is in Alameda County. Alameda County operates its own housing assistance program with federal funds.
“I applied for this last July and nothing. They told me they got the email and the application but nothing came of it. So I just applied again because I’m still eight months old and I’m asking for more money now,” Gary said.
Alameda County received $129 million to help tenants and landlords pay rent. They received a request for over $13,000 and have so far approved nearly $6,000.
The East Bay Rental Housing Association says many homeowners are on the verge of losing their properties while waiting for help from state or county programs.
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“They’re getting out of the business because it’s just too complicated and restricted to run the business, or they’re getting out of the business in the Bay Area,” said Derek Barnes of the East Bay. Rental Housing Association and added, “Maybe the state should have run the whole program for all the municipalities. You can probably argue that it could be more efficient.
As for Gary, he does not know how long he will be able to keep his property.
“I’m basically zero at this point. I have $50 in my savings account. I have a big problem. I just paid my property taxes and mortgage payments. I’m free until April, but I will have borrowed some money in May,” Gary said.
What some owners are considering now is to sell.
The Alameda County Housing Director said he is prioritizing small homeowners and low-income renters at risk of becoming homeless. She said they were short on money and couldn’t help everyone, even if they qualified. As for landlords like Gary, she says if their tenants don’t pay them, they’ll have to sue them.
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