Page 19 - AAGLA 2020-11
P. 19

 Executive Director’s Message
Continued from page 17
or roommate living situations or even a suburban lifestyle. How will we be made “whole?” There are no assurances, and so many of us will choose, rather than throwing good money after bad, to not pursue the collection of our tenant’s rental debts. Whether a civil debt collection or unlawful detainer matter, the costs are expensive and the deck is staked against us, so some will choose to accept the situation they’re in and move on.
So far, there has been no “balance” or no “tit for tat” in any of this. So far, we have only seen one- sided regulations that for some, are financially crushing and tormenting. We need practical solutions that not only keep those in actual need (yes, through means testing and providing valid proof of COVID-19 impacts) while at the same time we must make sure rental property owners are getting paid. Since the beginning, we have advocated for rental assistance programs, fair distribution of tenant protections only to those truly in need and COVID-19 impacted, and reasonable legal remedies for us to pursue and practical repayment schemes. Instead, we have gotten nothing close to any of this.
Lawmakers, and judges overseeing nonpayment proceedings, need to acknowledge that tens of thousands of rental property owners are a foundational part of any city and state economy; and they need to recognize that we owners, too, are experiencing unprecedented economic struggles. Just because we may own a rental property here or there does not mean we have not lost jobs or been inflicted with the Coronavirus or are caring for a family member so inflicted! Each apartment is a small business unto itself, with its own costs, within the larger business of a building and a building’s costs. Income lost due to nonpayment of rent is critical and often the cause of financial struggle for an owner especially when the nonpayment of rent is recurring for 7, 8 or more months now. After all, our bills for repairing and maintaining each unit, our mortgages, property taxes and insurance still come due, and at the same time, we still have our own families to house, feed and clothe.
We are no different than anyone else. Just because we own a rental property does not mean we do not live month to month or have only limited emergency savings at our disposal. In some cases, we have
made huge financial commitments and sacrifices to own these rental properties and many of us might be on the brink of foreclosure. Certainly, many of us are tired of this, and are giving up or selling out and / or investing money in more “landlord friendly” states. What all this means for California’s housing crisis and affordability problems remains to be seen, but it certainly will not be good.
Despite all of this, we do what we can do and try to help during this unprecedented crisis. Even before our elected officials conceived of the first eviction moratorium, many reasonable accommodations were being offered by landlords to help tenants stay in place and to pay outstanding back rent. There are also countless examples of landlords helping tenants in meaningful ways, like some who have delivered free bags of groceries to families in need and that had lost employment and household income. Yet, we are still outcasted and characterized as evil doers as our politicians pander to renters for votes and to stay in office.
In the face of all our “collective societal struggles,” tenants and landlords alike, there are also those who, despite enhanced unemployment benefits or never missing a paycheck, have chosen not to pay their rent as a means of leveraging owner stress to settle for a lesser payment and escaping responsibility. Some of these unscrupulous tenants even own expensive sports cars or have second homes. Those tenants who can afford to pay but do not are doing a tremendous disservice to tenants who haven’t paid because they truly can’t, and at the same time unfairly harm rental property owners struggling to make their own ends meet. Sadly, at some point, there will not be any money left for landlords to accommodate non-paying tenants and many will be forced into selling or foreclosure.
The State of California has given us Assembly Bill 3088, which is the “stop-gap” measure that gets us through to January 31, 2021 by protecting tenants and providing little, if anything, to assist the State’s landlords. The Governor and State Legislature are supposed to reconvene soon to figure out next steps to address tenant protections and the repayment of the pandemic driven, exploding rental debt in a more permanent solution. All we can do at this point is wait for the next shoe to drop.

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