Attorney General Bonta: HUD Must Use Its Full Authority to Protect Renters from Eviction During COVID-19 Pandemic
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a multistate coalition in support of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) effort to protect HUD-assisted tenants from eviction and urged HUD to take further action to ensure emergency rent relief reaches its intended recipients. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the federal government has distributed tens of billions of dollars intended to support renters and landlords, but there are still too many renters who are unaware of the existence of rent relief, need special assistance to apply, or whose rent relief applications are still in process. HUD’s interim final rule requiring HUD-assisted landlords to provide a 30-day notice to renters about the availability of emergency rent relief funds is an important step forward. However, the coalition argues that HUD must take further action to ensure that HUD-assisted tenants do not end up homeless as a result of financial hardships stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Too many Californians are living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how – or if – they are going to be able to pay their rent this month,” said Attorney General Bonta. “And once you get swept off your feet, it's often difficult to get back up. That's why we've got to do everything we can to protect renters from eviction during this financially precarious time. I stand behind HUD's efforts to ensure renters secure the emergency rent relief available to them, and I urge HUD to use its full authority to prevent evictions during this national emergency.”
The interim final rule requires landlords of HUD-assisted housing projects to provide a 30-day notice to tenants about the availability of emergency rent relief funds prior to eviction. In the letter, the coalition expresses their strong support for this effort to protect tenants facing financial hardship during COVID-19, but argues that:
- Tenants need more than 30 days to learn about their eligibility for rent relief, apply for rent relief and provide supporting documentation, and receive a decision from the state or local government distributing funds;
- HUD has, and should exercise, its authority to require an automatic stay of the eviction process when an emergency rent relief application is in process; and
- HUD has, and should exercise, its authority to require landlords of HUD-assisted public and project-based housing to seek monetary repayment of back rent only and to waive late fees altogether.
While California's eviction moratorium expired on October 1, there are still protections in place to help prevent evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. In a recent consumer alert, Attorney General Bonta reminded Californians of protections for tenants and homeowners under state and federal law. Visit the COVID-19 webpage for more resources and information. If you believe you may be eligible for state or local rental assistance, you should apply as soon as possible at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to advancing housing access, affordability, and equity in California. Last week, Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice and the convening of a series of tenant roundtables across the state. The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to email@example.com. Attorney General Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.
Source: Office of the Attorney General of California