Landlord Faces Foreclosure After Tenant Fails to Pay Rent for 3 Years During Covid-19 Moratorium

Aerial view of Oakland, California

Oakland, a city in the Bay Area, has been holding on to its eviction moratorium, which was introduced during the pandemic to safeguard tenants from eviction. However, many mom-and-pop landlords in the city are claiming that their tenants are taking advantage of the policy, leaving them at risk of losing their livelihoods.

How the pandemic-induced eviction moratorium is affecting landlords and tenants in Oakland

One such landlord is John Williams, who plans to bring a sign to Oakland City Hall to highlight his plight. Williams has been the owner of a duplex for almost two decades, which is also his only home. Renting out the bottom unit of the duplex was supposed to secure his retirement. But at the end of this month, he’s facing foreclosure because his tenant, Martina Matin, has not paid rent for the last three years, amounting to a staggering $56,000.

Williams said that for ten years, Martina had paid $1500 per month for the 3-bedroom, 1-bath apartment, but the checks always came late or bounced. However, in March 2020, she stopped paying rent altogether. Since then, Williams has been struggling to recoup his lost income. The ordeal has taken a toll on his health, and he has been unable to work and has been on disability for the past few months.

Despite providing documentation of Martina’s storage and transportation business registered to her address, Williams has been unable to remove her from his property due to the current moratorium. He has also tried to sell his property during the pandemic, but Martina’s occupancy has made it difficult.

Williams also offered to forgive all of Martina’s back rent if she would move out, but she declined the offer. He believes that tenants who are abusing and defrauding the system should not be protected under the tenant protections and that the law should remove such protections.

Tenant abuse of the moratorium policy in Oakland

The city council will consider winding down the moratorium in phases, but Williams and many others are already running out of time. He has no idea what he will do if he can’t come up with the money, and his home is foreclosed come May 1.

Tuan Ngo, a member of a volunteer housing provider group called In It Together, said that many landlords have had to clean out their retirement savings to make mortgage payments and pay property taxes. After repeated requests to meet with the mayor, Ngo, and group members met with representatives from Sheng Thao’s office. They were informed that the mayor didn’t have the plan to reimburse housing providers for their retirement savings that they had been robbed of and that there was no plan to save people like John Williams from foreclosure.

Williams said that lawyers’ fees are costly, and legal proceedings are slow and cumbersome. He sued Alameda County and the city of Oakland last year as part of a class action lawsuit, which claimed that the eviction moratorium is “invalid, illegal, and unenforceable.” The lawsuit seeks an end to the moratorium and damages for landlords. However, Williams said that there has been no recent activity with the case.

Overall, the situation is a heavy burden for Williams, both financially and emotionally. He believes that it’s truly a sad day for Oakland.