SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Families worried about paying back rent due to the pandemic are getting more time.
Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted 5-4 to extend
the rent repayment period for commercial and residential renters to December 30, giving renters who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic a few extra months to repay back rent.
Council President Georgette Gomez's initial motion Tuesday would have
extended the repayment period for the eviction moratorium to March 31, 2021.
Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell amended the motion to the December date as a compromise.
On March 25, the council voted unanimously to begin an emergency
eviction moratorium for renters. The moratorium requires renters to demonstrate through documentation that the pandemic has caused "substantial loss of income," according to city staff.
Renters are also required to follow the rules in leases, but landlords cannot evict a tenant for nonpayment due to COVID-19.
During the meeting, the council heard from landlords and realtors who say renters are taking advantage of the situation.
"The blanket moratorium has given criminals a free pass at the full expense of landlords, this is not a one size fits all," said property manager Claudia Cooper.
Other callers said it would be a disaster to evict families just as children are starting school from home.
"Folks will be evicted and this pandemic won't be over anytime soon as the presentation mentioned, a lot of children are going to be learning from home and to be evicted right as school starts is just going to exacerbate the effect this pandemic has had on our kids," said one caller.
Many callers said evictions must be prevented to avoid adding to the homeless problem.
"Many people have been out of work and eviction could mean death," said another caller.
The moratorium on evictions expires September 30. If tenants are in good standing with landlords, they can work out a repayment plan for back rent through December 30.
"We are all in it together," Gomez said before discussion of the
motion. "The economy is not fully restored. This is not an ideal policy, but
it's a necessity for what we are dealing with."
Gomez represents District 9, which encompasses Southcrest, City
Heights, Rolando and the College area. It has also been one of the most
impacted areas during the pandemic.
According to a member of Gomez' staff, which gave the presentation
on the topic, the city had started 15,659 rental relief applications using
federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.
Disbursements from that pool of relief money are scheduled to be handed out in late August or early September. Those funds will go directly to landlords, however, and not renters.
Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry voted no on the motion Tuesday,
not because she didn't agree that people needed help paying rent, but because the arbitrary nature of the rental relief program could leave the city open for lawsuits, she said. She added that not enough renters know the impact of not paying rent.
"It's a cruel hoax," she said. Bry said that by not paying rent on
time, tenants could be destroying their credit and leaving themselves with
mountains of debt and no place to turn once the moratorium ends.
In a public comment period, several dozen San Diegans called in, many
urging the council to extend the moratorium -- which was not the motion in front of council -- and many to forgive rent and mortgages outright.
About an equal number of landlords called in to urge the council to allow for evictions again, as many said they were paying two mortgages and not receiving income.
Councilmembers Chris Cate and Scott Sherman were opposed to the
extension on legal grounds, as the gap between when the moratorium was passed to the date proposed in Tuesday's initial motion would have been more than a year. They claimed this could cause trouble for landlords trying to evict delinquent tenants or to collect back rent.
Because the repayment extension passed with just five votes, it is
susceptible to a possible veto by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.