The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also meant a potential housing crisis that impacts tenants, landlords, and property management groups. To enact tenant protections, a San Diego tenant's rights group is now advising members to halt their rent payments until the health crisis is over.
This call to action is not particular to San Diego's tenant rights groups. There have been calls across the globe via grassroots advocacy on social media. On Wednesday the tenant’s union and the San Diego Tenants United held a virtual town hall for a rent strike.
They say the consequences of job and income loss from the stay at home orders issued by the government have provided an opportunity for the wealthy to exploit working-class people. They believe it is important for tenants to stand together and plan emergency contingencies that will keep them afloat. But they also are suggesting that tenants write a letter to their landlords stating their inability to pay rent.
The groups have said about 100 people are participating in the rent strike and sent a formal letter to their landlord. The document states that if they have the ability they will make a partial payment and that they are unlikely to be able to make further payments until the end of the crisis.
As a rebuttal, the Southern California Rental Housing Association has also issued a statement. They say that state protections already formulated are helping tenants to make timely payments. They also say nonpayment of rental fees could hurt the entire property management supply chain. This means landlords, as well as the essential staff needed for them to operate efficiently, would be damaged by the rent strike, they said. No one wins in a rent strike and there are long term consequences, the SCRHA said.
On March 25, the San Diego City Council ordered a moratorium on evictions until May 31. The emergency ordinance states that landlords cannot evict a tenant for nonpayment starting from March 12, but that would not preclude recovering rent at a later date.
San Diego Housing Commission designed a website during the eviction moratorium launch to provide information to tenants who may qualify for rent relief. Those who qualify must provide proof to their landlord that they have experienced a significant loss of income or have medical bills from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moratorium gives tenants relief of six months from March 25 to repay their unpaid rent.
City Council President Georgette Gomez said the website and rent relief was only the first step in the process and an additional measure will be to ensure that residents and small business owners know their rights and responsibilities to be protected.
San Diego County, as well as Chula Vista and San Marcos, also have created ordinances to protect and assist tenants and Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order to stop evictions across the entire state for renters who are impacted by COVID-19.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria, San Diego Democrat, has announced a plan to assist rental property owners. He believes it is equally important to help landlords because no one group is invulnerable.