Just under 200 eviction notices have been filed with the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board since the city’s eviction moratorium expired almost two months ago, and only 12 have led to court filings.
The city’s eviction moratorium ended on Sept. 1, making Berkeley tenants responsible for all rental payments after that date. Tenants cannot be evicted for any back payment owed from the COVID-19 pandemic, but landlords can file small claims against them to retrieve money.
Before the eviction moratorium expired, the city imposed a “transition period” that opened up certain evictions. Property owners filed 178 notices during that period, and only six culminated in an unlawful detainer and court eviction, according to the Rent Board.
Since Sept. 1, the Rent Board has received 175 eviction notices. That includes 61 three-day notices, four 10-day notices, six notices to “perform or quit” and 92 30-day notices, which are commonly required at federally subsidized properties.
Most of the 30-day “pay or quit” notices came at the end of September at Strawberry Creek Lodge, a senior housing property owned by Satellite Affordable Housing Advocates (SAHA). Though some residents were initially alarmed at what appeared to be mass evictions at the property, SAHA clarified that it was working to resolve nonpayment issues with tenants.
Susan Friedland, chief executive officer of SAHA, said none of those cases have since resulted in an eviction, and the housing nonprofit has navigated financial options for tenants through the Eviction Defense Center.
Nathan Dahl, manager of the public information unit for the Rent Board, confirmed at a Rent Board meeting Monday that the Strawberry Creek Lodge has not escalated to unlawful detainer lawsuits.
The number of evictions in Berkeley is still significantly lower than neighboring cities that either didn’t extend eviction protections past the county moratorium in May and the state moratorium in June 2022 or contributed less funding to housing retention.
Alameda County eviction court experienced a “tsunami” of eviction cases beginning in May, when the county’s moratorium expired, not accounting for cases from Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro, which kept protections in place longer.
The county average was typically 300 to 400 unlawful detainers a month before the pandemic, which never surpassed 100 during the county’s moratorium, according to The Oaklandside. But there were 772 unlawful detainers filed countywide in June.
Berkeley City Council approved over $5 million for its housing retention program during the pandemic, which went toward rental assistance to renters and landlords. The Eviction Defense Center is disbursing the funds and about $350,000 is remaining in Berkeley, but going fast, according to EDC Executive Director Anne Omura.
“Alameda County evictions are skyrocketing, with the eviction court calendar about to exceed 100 cases in one morning,” Omura said. “We are seeing massive displacement of low income families happening at an extremely accelerated pace.”
Leah Simon-Weisberg, Rent Board chair, reiterated that Berkeley hasn’t borne the brunt of possible evictions because of its strong pandemic policies.
“I think it is not the flood that we feared but instead the result of Berkeley’s proactive response to the COVID pandemic,” Simon-Weisberg said. “The moratorium worked and the ongoing rental assistance has been crucial.”
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