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Alameda County's Eviction Moratorium Ended Saturday. What's Next for Renters (and Landlords)?

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An aerial view of suburban houses.
 (Better Planet Media/Getty Images)

At 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, Alameda County’s eviction moratorium expired.

This means that starting Sunday, April 30, tens of thousands of Alameda County residents must pay rent for the first time in three years.

The protections were established by Alameda County in 2020 as a way to protect renters from the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. But when Alameda ended the county’s public health emergency for COVID-19 on Feb. 28 (PDF), it also triggered the end of the moratorium.

Now, Alameda County housing officials are expecting evictions to spike to above pre-pandemic levels, to some 250–350 evictions per month — as landlords look to recoup back rent and evict tenants if they are unable to pay going forward.

Keep reading for what to know about the end of the eviction moratorium in Alameda County. For resources available to tenants and landlords in Alameda County, including free legal services for lower-income tenants and homeowners, visit Alameda County Housing Secure.

How will this eviction moratorium’s expiration affect people in Alameda County?

For their part, property owners say they plan to collect what they’re owed. A survey of landlords (PDF) conducted by the Alameda County Community Development Agency this spring found that 67% of respondents said they would pursue an eviction after the moratorium expired. Fifty-seven percent said they would pursue rent debt through small claims court.

“I think we are going to see a lot of displacement, and this is going to affect lower-income community members more than those with higher incomes,” said Michelle Starratt, housing director for Alameda County.

“We looked very closely at what was happening in surrounding communities like Contra Costa and Santa Clara County when their eviction moratoriums ended last fall,” she said. “What we saw was a rapid rise in evictions and displacement.”

Does Alameda County’s eviction moratorium affect every city in the county?

No: The Alameda County cities of Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro still have their own eviction moratoriums, and those will remain in effect after the county’s eviction moratorium expires on Saturday:

That said, just because a city in Alameda County has its own eviction moratorium doesn’t mean renters in that city can’t be evicted. For example, “The Oakland moratorium will continue to protect tenants for eviction due to nonpayment of rent,” Starratt told KQED in an email. “However, if a tenant violated their lease in another way, the landlord will be able to begin an eviction process.”

The differences between the county’s moratorium and the city moratoriums mean that if you live in Oakland, Berkeley or San Leandro, it’s really important to understand exactly what your city’s rules do and do not protect you against. “I don’t want to give tenants [in those cities] the impression that they are 100% safe,” said Starratt.

Alameda County Housing Secure advises that if you live in Oakland, Berkeley or San Leandro, “to be safe, you should submit proof of your COVID-related loss of income or increase in expenses to your landlord in the form of pay stubs, bank statements, a letter from your employer, child care bills, or medical bills.”

What happens for renters now that Alameda County’s eviction moratorium has expired?

Rent is due on May 1, and the end of the county’s eviction moratorium means that going forward, Alameda County tenants must pay their rent — or be subject to eviction.

A tenant not paying their rent “is grounds for eviction,” said Starratt in an interview with KQED. “Their landlord could serve them with a three-day notice to pay or quit.”

If you get a notice from your landlord, time is of the essence for you to respond, says Starratt. “If you get a summons from the courthouse, you have five days to respond. It’s really important that you respond because if you don’t, you won’t actually have any protections,” she said.

“It won’t matter if the [Alameda County] eviction moratorium protected you — you won’t be able to use that as a reason to defend against an eviction notice.”

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What else can Alameda County tenants now be evicted for?

In addition to not paying rent that’s due starting May 1, your landlord can also now attempt to evict you based on your behavior during the moratorium, says Starratt. “For instance, if you violated your lease by moving someone into your home without permission from your landlord, or destroyed property, or violated the lease in some other way,” she said.

“Currently, tenants can’t be evicted for the nonpayment of rent during the eviction moratorium: They can come after you in small claims court, they can attach your wages, they can get their payment from you, but they can’t evict you for that,” she said. “They have to evict you for a different reason.”

But she also cautioned that tenants shouldn’t exclusively focus on this particular aspect, “because there’s going to be cases in court where someone will file an appeal on that” and that “the law around this is going to be fast moving and quickly changing.”

“We really don’t know what the end result is going to be,” Starratt said. “A judge could kick that part of our [Alameda County] ordinance out. They might say, ‘No, that’s not legal. You can’t do it.’ But since it hasn’t started yet, we really don’t know if that protection really exists.”

When it comes to repaying rent, what can an Alameda County landlord ask of a tenant now that the eviction moratorium has expired?

“Landlords have a right to the income that they are owed and they have a right to sue their tenants in small claims court to obtain payment,” said Starratt. Her message: “If you can pay your rent, you should pay it.”

“If you didn’t pay your rent and used that money on other items, you could be faced with a court assigning your wages to the landlord in order for the landlord to get their back rent,” warned Starratt.

It’s important to remember the original purpose of the COVID-19 Alameda County eviction moratorium, said Starratt: “This was not a rent strike. This was an expectation that at some point you were going to pay your rent.”

“Tenants with lower income who have not paid their rent and who still have outstanding rent, even if they got some of it paid by rental assistance, need to come up with a payment plan with their landlord and identify some ways to start making payments,” she said. Alameda County Housing Secure has referrals to agencies that can help you mediate that type of agreement.

What should landlords in Alameda County know?

“There’s anywhere from $125 million to $300 million worth of outstanding rent that’s owed in the county,” said Starratt. “That’s after the emergency rental assistance funding that came from the federal and state governments brought over $220 million worth of back paid rent into the county,” she said.

Starratt says that in an Alameda County community survey of landlords in fall 2022 and spring 2023, landlords reported that “fully 50% of the rent that’s owed is owed by tenants who are over-income — meaning they’re higher than 80% of area median income. They’re not considered low-income and they didn’t pay their rent during COVID, and that is a problem.”

“At this point, the best recourse for landlords is to go to small claims court to obtain the back rent owed from those tenants,” said Starratt.

“In the meantime, we are deploying almost $5 million in emergency foreclosure prevention money to landlords,” said Starratt. “Those contracts will be going before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors hopefully before the end of May in order to help those landlords that didn’t get paid.”

“We really don’t want landlords to lose their properties, so we’re trying to get some of these resources into the community,” Starratt said. “But nearly $5 million in funding is just a drop in the bucket if we have over $300 million worth of outstanding rent and half of that is for over-income tenants. The over-income tenants need to help us by paying their rent.”

Tell us: What else do you need information about?

At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2023. We’ve published clear, practical explainers and guides about COVID, how to cope with intense winter weather and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site, and on KQED Public Radio, too.

This story contains reporting from KQED’s Rachel Vasquez.

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