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Oakland's Eviction Moratorium Just Ended. What's Next for Renters and Landlords?

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A street near Lake Merritt in Oakland, with several apartment buildings all lined up next to one another. The sky is clear and near the apartment buildings, there are a couple palm trees.
Starting July 15, landlords in Oakland can now evict renters or terminate tenancies for any just cause, including for not paying rent. However, there are still some protections in place for tenants. (MattGush/Getty Images)

After months of debate, Oakland’s eviction moratorium expired on Saturday, July 15. The move comes after Alameda County ended its public health emergency and its own eviction moratorium back in April. Oakland had been one of the last remaining cities in the country with this type of protection for tenants, along with San Francisco and Berkeley.

In the rest of Alameda County, evictions spiked after the county’s moratorium was lifted, rising to above pre-pandemic highs. With the majority of Oakland residents renting their homes, and the city having a higher percentage of renters compared to the county as a whole (PDF), many advocates fear that this change will lead to an even greater wave of evictions.

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Evictions on the horizon

“We’re all terrified to see [the moratorium] sunset,” said Anne Tamiko Omura, executive director of the Eviction Defense Center (EDC). “We’ve already seen the effects of the Alameda County moratorium sunsetting and the massive amounts of evictions that are being filed. So we can only imagine what’s waiting for us in Oakland.”

In 2019, Tamiko Omura said, there were less than 4,000 evictions — but she expects that after the moratorium lifts, evictions will now surpass that number in less than three months.

If you’re a renter, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can be immediately evicted, as various tenant protections still remain in place and some were recently added by the Oakland City Council.

Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), said her organization is “expecting to see a lot of evictions filed.”

Simon-Weisberg’s key message? “We’re working really hard to get the message out that you can’t be evicted for the rent that people may have accrued during the pandemic,” she said.

So what do you need to know about Oakland’s eviction moratorium expiring? If you’re an Oakland renter — or a landlord in the city — how will the end of the moratorium affect you? Keep reading for details on who can be evicted in Oakland and what renter protections continue to exist after July 15.

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What does the end of the moratorium mean for renters?

In March 2020, the Oakland City Council adopted an eviction moratorium in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — which ensured that renters could not be evicted over unpaid rent.

In fact, there were actually three renter protections Oakland put into place in 2020:

  • All evictions were prohibited — unless they were on health or safety grounds, or under a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants if they’re permanently taking their units off the rental market (e.g., moving themselves or a family member into the unit).
  • All late fees for nonpayment of rent were prohibited.
  • All rent increases were prohibited unless they were established inflation adjustments or approved through a petition under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program.

So, what’s changing?

Starting July 15, landlords will be able to evict for nonpayment of rent moving forward. Landlords will also be able to once again charge late fees.

However, the moratorium on rent increases is not ending on July 15. That will remain in place until July 1, 2024, one year away. Until that date, all rent increases will remain prohibited.

See the details of what will change for Oakland renters and landlords starting July 1 on the city of Oakland’s website.

What can Oakland renters now be evicted for, starting July 15?

Starting July 15, landlords in Oakland can now evict renters or terminate tenancies for any just cause, including not paying rent.

Because for most tenants rent is due on the first day of the month, this means that most Oakland renters will have to start paying their rent on or after August 1. And if they don’t, their landlord can start eviction proceedings. If you are someone who pays rent on the first of the month, be aware that your landlord could technically ask you on July 15 to pay half of your July rent.

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Oakland landlords can also resume charging their tenants late fees for late rent payments moving forward — but this does not include late payments during the moratorium period. So housing advocates stress that renters should start paying their landlord again as soon as their rent is due.

Tenants can also now be evicted for having violated their lease in other ways during the eviction moratorium. To this end, the Oakland City Council did approve a “just cause” ordinance, which says that the landlord must show that the lease violation is based on a reasonable term that the tenant accepted in writing and it has to be a violation that causes substantial injury to the landlord.

Additionally, city officials told KQED that a landlord cannot proceed with an eviction if the unit in question has not been registered with the city’s rent registry — something the city now requires for all rental units covered by rent control or “just cause” protections.

Jump to more resources available to renters in Oakland.

Do Oakland renters have to pay back rent now that the eviction moratorium has expired?

Landlords in Oakland can demand back rent starting July 15, and can take tenants to small claims court. They can also ultimately pursue evictions for the back rent that was missed during the moratorium period.

However, this development regarding back rent comes with two big caveats.

First, tenants cannot be evicted for any back rent owed between March 9, 2020, and July 14, 2021, if they can show that the missed payment was due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, tenants cannot be evicted for owing less than one month of fair market rent during that period.

How do you show that your financial hardship or loss was caused by the pandemic? Alameda County Housing Secure advises that “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.”

The city of Oakland is also encouraging tenants and landlords to enter into repayment negotiations (PDF). Legally, repayment plans cannot come with late fees and cannot be conditioned on changes to the lease.

Simon-Weisberg, from ACCE, says that many tenants are being pressured by landlords who say they’ll forgive the debt if the tenant agrees to move out. And while that might sound like a good deal for those who may not have the budget to pay back the debt, she argues it’s more stressful to end up with nowhere to live.

“I think that people aren’t quite sure what to do with the debt that they owe,” said Simon-Weisberg. “So we really want to encourage folks to hang tight. And I think we’ll be going into a period of trying to really help people figure out what to do about the debt.”

A street in Oakland's Chinatown during the morning. Cars are parked along the street, in front of apartment buildings with shops on the ground level.
The city of Oakland is encouraging tenants who owe back rent to enter into repayment negotiations with their landlords. Legally, repayment plans cannot come with late fees and cannot be conditioned on changes to the lease. (Nicolo Sertorio/Getty Images)

Resources for Oakland renters

Tamiko Omura, from the EDC, said that her group is advising renters “to do the best they can to pay their rent for the month of July and to contact a legal service provider if they get any paperwork as soon as possible.” Often, if you receive an eviction notice or summons, you have to respond within three days or face losing the opportunity to make your case.

During the debate over the eviction moratorium, Oakland City Council members said the city’s rental assistance program administered $60 million in assistance, but that these funds have not been fully utilized. However, applications are now closed — though the program is administered through the following local nonprofits, many of which also offer legal assistance:

“Oakland has done everything it can to try to get more money. It’s not enough,” said Tamiko Omura. “The state coverage was not enough. The money we have left is not enough.”

Which other Bay Area cities still have their own eviction moratoriums?

These Bay Area cities still have their own, separate eviction moratoriums, which are ongoing:

San Francisco eviction moratorium: After the city’s public health emergency ended on June 30, the rental eviction moratorium was extended to August 29, and will expire August 30.

Berkeley eviction moratorium: The city of Berkeley’s eviction moratorium is expiring in stages. Starting May 1, some evictions were allowed for health and safety, owner move-ins or nonpayment of rent where the tenant had not provided documentation establishing a reason for not paying. After September 1, the moratorium will fully expire.

San Leandro eviction moratorium: The eviction moratorium in San Leandro will end July 31. Tenants will have to pay past due rent within 180 days.

Additionally, the Contra Costa cities of Richmond and El Cerrito have some extra tenant protections related to missed rent during the pandemic — though neither city still has an eviction moratorium in place.

What should landlords in Oakland know?

Landlords should be aware that if their property is under rent control, they are now required to register their units in the city’s rent registry. The deadline to register was July 5, 2022. City officials told KQED that if a landlord has not registered a unit, they currently cannot proceed with an eviction for the tenants living in that unit.

“It is not that we are asking them to register their eviction, even though they are to provide the city with a copy,” said Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program Manager Victor Ramirez. “The registration is not for them to register an eviction lawsuit. It is for them to provide information about the tenancy that they currently have.”

Another challenge landlords are facing is the sheer size of outstanding rent owed throughout the city. When Alameda County’s eviction moratorium expired back in April, Michelle Starratt, housing director for Alameda County, said there was between $125 million and $300 million in outstanding rent owed throughout the county — even with the federal and state assistance that had paid some of the back rent.

In an Alameda County survey of landlords from fall 2022 and spring 2023, landlords reported that 50% of the rent that was owed was actually owed by tenants who were considered over-income — as in, their income was higher than 80% of the area’s median income.

“At this point, the best recourse for landlords is to go to small claims court to obtain the back rent owed from those tenants,” Starratt said at the time. Alameda County also deployed about $5 million in emergency foreclosure prevention money.

During the Oakland City Council meetings, a number of smaller Oakland landlords spoke out about the financial stress they had been struggling with as well.

The state of California additionally runs a mortgage relief program, which earlier this year expanded who qualified.

“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,” said Starratt.

KQED’s Rachel Vasquez, Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman and Alexander Gonzalez contributed to this reporting.

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