Oakland Begins to Lift Eviction Bans
City officials in Oakland have announced plans to ease the pandemic-era ban on evictions, which has faced intense opposition from property owners. The City Council is expected to consider an ordinance to end the tenant protections, during a committee meeting on April 11, 2023, followed by a full council meeting next month.
The new proposal would allow landlords to evict tenants who don’t pay rent beginning on May 1st. This doesn’t include unpaid rent before that date — all unpaid rent incurred since March 2020 will be considered a form of debt that the tenant is responsible for paying; landlords may file small claims pertaining to unpaid debts.
Starting in May, evictions will be allowed if the property owner or their family member intends to occupy the unit, provided it’s the only one they own in Oakland. On September 1, most of the other eviction protections will expire, allowing any typical eviction to proceed, including those due to COVID-19-related hardships such as lost wages or inability to work due to the virus.
The ban on “passing through” repair costs to tenants and “banking” permitted rent increases will end in July 2024. This means that property owners will be able to resume these practices next summer.
Although most Bay Area cities lifted their moratoriums on evictions early on in the pandemic, Oakland has kept its ban in place for much longer than others. San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Leandro also have yet to end their eviction protections. Tenants can still avoid eviction if they can demonstrate financial hardship due to COVID-related setbacks, according to a proposal by Bas and Councilmember Dan Kalb.
Along with the gradual easing of the eviction moratorium, Bas and Kalb are proposing permanent tenant protections to make it more difficult for landlords to evict renters in the future. One of these provisions would prevent evictions for amounts less than a month’s worth of fair market rent as determined by the federal government. In case of a lease violation, the property owner must demonstrate that the breach resulted in substantial damage to them.
Oakland has long had a “just cause” eviction policy, which means renters can’t be evicted arbitrarily. Instead, there are 11 valid reasons for eviction, such as nonpayment of rent, substantial upgrades to the unit, or illegal activity by the tenant. The eviction moratorium temporarily suspended most of these reasons.
In the November election, voters further strengthened the just-cause policy by adding protections such as limiting evictions of educators and children during the school year.
Recently, landlords in Oakland staged a protest inside the council’s meeting chamber, forcing Bas to halt the meeting and call for security. This followed a similar disruption at an Alameda County supervisors meeting in February, where a landlord staged a hunger strike to protest the moratorium.
Chris Moore, a representative of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, stated that the moratorium was “bankrupting” Oakland’s landlords and reducing the supply of housing in the community. He added that it was largely putting small and local housing providers out of business.