Retiree Pamela Haile has paid property taxes, insurance and other bills on a home she rents in Oakland, but for more than three years her tenants have not paid any rent thanks to one of the bans on longest-lasting evictions in the country.
The eviction moratorium in the San Francisco Bay City expires next month and Haile can’t wait. The 69-year-old estimates she owes over $60,000 in back rent, money she doubts she will ever see. In addition, tenants ransacked her house and it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to make it habitable, she says.
“It’s amazing and it’s like, how can they have the nerve to let something like this happen? If this happened to them, how would they feel? Haile said of her tenants. “Facing with all of this makes me so upset.”
Eviction moratoriums were put in place in the United States at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to prevent travel and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Most long expiredbut not in Oakland or San Francisco and Berkeley, all places with high rents and high homelessness rates.
While it is more common to see tenants converge on town halls in California to demand greater protectionsin Oakland and surrounding Alameda County, small property owners staged protests earlier this year to demand an end to moratoriums.
Many landlords were black, like Haile, or Asian American, and they said eviction bans had burdened them with debt and foreclosure worries while their tenants, who have jobs, live without rent.
They chastised elected officials for allowing tenants to self-certify that their inability to pay was related to the pandemic. Unlike large landowners, these smallholders said they couldn’t afford to evict and were consumed with worry.
“There’s nothing natural about being forced to house and support people on your property for over three years and not pay,” said Michelle Hailey, who is also black and owns a triplex where her two tenants stopped paying. “There’s nothing natural, ethical or even human about it.”
Alameda County let its moratorium expire at the end of April. In Oakland, it ends on July 15. Tenants must start paying rent in August in most cases, but cannot be evicted for rent arrears if their financial hardship was caused by the pandemic.
Supporters of the moratorium have called the bans a lifeline that has kept countless families housed and off the streets. They said low-income residents are still battling the pandemic and need protections from ruthless landlords.
Across the country, demands for deportation have returned in force since the end of the bans – more than 50% higher than the pre-pandemic average in many cities, according to the Princeton University Eviction Lab, which tracks deposits in three dozen cities and 10 states.
In Alameda County, California, deposits topped 500 in May, from 65 in April before the ban ended. This surpassed filings that averaged in the 300s before the pandemic in 2019.
In Oakland, a city rich in black history, some black families who emigrated from the South during World War II were able to buy homes, despite redlining and other discriminatory banking and government practices.
But a recession and subprime mortgage crisis followed by rapidly rising house prices and gentrification drove out many black residents, and homelessness worsened.
Carroll Fife, a black councilor and housing advocate, has called for a housing overhaul that focuses on homes for the people rather than profit for the few. She acknowledged that some people “took advantage of the moratorium”, but says most tenants were in desperate need of help.
Hailey, the owner of the triplex, considers herself lucky because she was able to recover some money through a rent relief program. The tenants have moved out, but she has a pile of bills and can’t afford to renovate.
She bought the property in 1999 after winning big writing songs included in Destiny’s Child’s debut album. The artist thought the triplex would provide him with a stable income and help finance his retirement.
“So that was my whole plan, and I just watched it go up in smoke,” Hailey, 59, said. “We’ve never had a situation where you would have the government-sanctioned freedom not to pay your rent.”
Haile doesn’t know why the family who rented the house her parents left her stopped paying rent in April 2020. The property management company said she couldn’t apply due to the ban on expulsion.
Reached by The Associated Press, tenant Martha Pinzon said on the advice of a community nonprofit she stopped paying after losing her job as a housekeeper at a hotel during the closing. triggered by the pandemic in March 2020. Even now, she cannot afford the $1,875 monthly rent on her salary as a caretaker at a homeless shelter.
Pinzon’s 19-year-old daughter Brigitte Cortez said the moratorium gave her mother “peace of mind” during the pandemic. She said the property management company had ignored their requests for repairs for years.
“We’ve had a lot of problems in this house since we moved in,” she said, adding that they were looking for a new place to live.
Haile says the tenants never asked for repairs.
John Williams, 62, hopes three years of worry and stress are coming to an end.
Williams, who is part of a lawsuit against Oakland and Alameda County over the bans, said her tenant stopped paying the $1,500 monthly rent when the pandemic began. She offered no explanation as she operated a storage business out of the apartment and did not cooperate so he could get money from the city’s rent relief program, a- he declared.
As a black man, Williams had experienced rental discrimination, and he thought his Victorian duplex in West Oakland would be a way for him to retire and house others. He started renting to the mother of two in 2013.
At the end of 2020, he tried to sell the house, but she refused to move and the sale fell through. At the end of 2021, Williams was so stressed that he was hospitalized, placed on disability and could not work. He was forced to move into the accommodation above his tenant. It didn’t feel like home anymore.
The tenant did not return hotspot messages left at the phone number of a business she operates.
Williams supports the goals of the eviction ban, but wishes the city had considered landlords like him. He was on the verge of losing his home on May 1, but was saved by a state mortgage relief program that began this year accepting applications from homeowners who reside in their duplexes and triplexes.
He plans to leave town.
“I don’t want to be a door-to-door provider in Oakland,” he said. “It’s been a really tough time.”