Berkeley’s eviction moratorium expired at the end of April and entered its transition period, which will last until Aug. 31.
The moratorium exempted all tenants from eviction, with an exception if they were causing an imminent threat or health and safety issues, according to Rent Stabilization Board Chair Leah Simon-Weisberg. She added that those who own a single family home or only one residential property in Berkeley were allowed to move into their unit.
During the transition period, Berkeley Property Owners Association Executive Director Krista Gulbransen said moratorium-era eviction parameters will remain, but tenants who fail to pay rent at any time between May 1 to the end of the moratorium, Aug. 31, can now face eviction starting Sept. 1.
“The longer we drag out the ability to not pay rent but still reside in your unit, the more harm we do to the rental marketplace for those small owners that provide the majority of housing in Berkeley,” Gulbransen said in an email.
Gulbransen explained that when the moratorium ends, standard evictions policy will resume and tenants who have deferred to pay rent for the past three years may be evicted. Additionally, tenants who will be unable to afford their rent “may vacate the unit, knowing they can no longer afford it,” she said.
This may actually increase housing availability for students, Gulbransen added.
Once the transition period comes to an end, Simon-Weisberg explained that tenants will be eligible for eviction on the grounds of a breach of lease.
Simon-Weisberg noted that the pretextual evictions, or bad faith evictions, that used to occur before the COVID-19 eviction moratorium may resume once the transition period ends. She explained that the end of the moratorium could make bad faith evictions easier to file.
“It’s appropriate that if people aren’t paying their rent that they can’t really continue to live there,” Simon-Weisberg said. “Going forward, that’s the reality of how things are, but I would like a world where people should rarely get evicted.”
While the moratorium enters its final stages, she said Berkeley continues to allocate housing retention funds, available through the Eviction Defense Center, to help tenants struggling to pay their rent. She added that any community members can apply if they are in need of financial support.
Simon-Weisberg said since it is better economically to keep people in their home than to have them be evicted and rehoused, Berkeley is “smart” to continue allocating these funds. She hopes to maintain high levels of tenant protections similar to those in place during COVID-19 pandemic.
Gulbransen added that while the city of Berkeley and elected officials have supplied “considerable” amounts of money to agencies focused on helping low-income tenants, there is still a need for increased funding. She said there are still not enough funds available to “keep people housed.”
With the moratorium ending in August, Simon-Weisberg explained that evictions are rare and that the city of Berkeley has been effective in reducing how many bad faith evictions occurred.
“Sometimes the most important part of dealing with a crisis is how that crisis ends, how you respond to it, and I think Berkeley has done a really excellent job,” Simon-Weisberg said.