July 31, 2020 by Barry Eberling
Napa County has extended its prohibition on evicting residential tenants who cannot pay rent because of COVID-19-related reasons until Sept. 30.
The previous deadline had been July 28. The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed an urgency extension setting the new date, the latest possible under an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom granting counties this power.
Still, the law doesn’t erase back rent owed, but rather delays the payments. Rents due March 1, April 1 and May 1 are to be paid by Oct. 26, rents due June 1 by Nov. 28, rents due July 1 by Dec. 28, rents due August 1 by Jan. 28 and rents due Sept. 1 by Feb. 28. There are variations for rents not due on the first day of the month.
Tenants have another option. They can work out a payment plan with their landlords with a different set of deadlines.
Regular rents will begin being due again on Oct. 1.
All of this is happening against a backdrop of tenants who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic or have contracted the virus and face health problems. Supervisors noted the challenges this raises when they discussed the issue on July 21 and July 28.
“How are we going to expect them to get a job and pay back that much past-due rent and succeed?” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. “We’re just making the debt larger. Maybe at the end of the day, they won’t be able to pay it back.”
He suggested tenants do what they can to dig out of that hole a little faster, so they are not stuck with a big, lump sum come Oct. 26. One key will be to make sure tenants understand the schedule, he said.
Supervisors had another worry — landlords who depend on rent for their own income. Board chairwoman Diane Dillon mentioned seniors with rental property “who are beside themselves over this situation.”
One solution mentioned is to use rental assistance to help tenants who owe rent to these rent-dependent landlords. Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said this is a “twofer” of addressing both problems simultaneously.
The county recently surveyed about 240 tenants. Together, they owed $180,000 in back rent, most from May and June and with the expectation of not paying July rent, Housing and Homeless Services Director Molly Rattigan told supervisors on July 21.
The Napa Valley Community Foundation provided emergency financial assistance of $1.2 million to 1,008 low-income households, an average of almost $1,200 a household, Rattigan said. Nonprofit Seasons of Sharing funds provided $460,000 at an average of $1,600 a family, which calculates to about 287 households.
More rental assistance is available, county officials said. Go to https://bit.ly/3fgXoIJ for more information.
Rattigan said a workshop will be held in the next few weeks in partnership with Napa Valley Community Housing. It will help landlords who depend on rental income understand their options and programs that might provide assistance.
Supervisors heard from several speakers by phone during public comments. One knows friends and family who are worried about eviction.
“It’s a very scary situation…we’re all scared out here. We’re losing jobs, we’re losing income,” she said.
Pablo Zatarain, executive director of Fair Housing Napa Valley, stressed the continued need for the COVID-19-related eviction prohibition. He talked of keeping in mind the primary intent of establishing protections for tenants who may be going without income for months.