During the first couple of years of the COVID-19 pandemic, various state and local laws were implemented to protect tenants across California. Now that most federal, state, and local evictions moratoriums have come to an end, what can we learn about their impact?
Provisions in the governor’s March 2020 executive order and an emergency rule issued by the Judicial Council in early April 2020 protected tenants unable to pay rent because of COVID-related hardship until state legislation such as the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (CTRA) were passed. (On the federal level, the CARES Act and a CDC eviction moratorium also provided tenant protections and assistance.) After CTRA ended in summer 2021, many cities enacted local laws that continued tenant protections; most of these local laws expired as of February 2023.
State and local tenant protections were almost certainly responsible for the sharp decline in evictions at the beginning of the pandemic. After declining steadily over the past decade, the number of eviction filings plunged at the beginning of the pandemic to approximately 30% of filings in fiscal year 2018.
The impact of evictions varies across the state. Looking at data from 2019, we see the highest rates of eviction across the Inland Empire (37 per 1,000 renters in Riverside County, 42 in San Bernardino County) and the Central Valley (36 per 1,000 in Calaveras County, 30 in San Joaquin County). Lake County, in Northern California, had the highest rate of eviction filings (46), while the lowest rate was in San Francisco County (12). Rates of eviction were also low across other coastal counties—even though rents tend to be higher in these areas, evictions are less prevalent because many coastal counties have renters with higher incomes as well as tenant protections that predate the pandemic.
Looking at the most recent eviction data available (from 2021), we see far lower rates of eviction all across the state. This indicates that moratoriums and rent relief programs shielded Californians who were experiencing economic difficulty from court eviction processes during a global health crisis.
Given the expiration of most tenant protections, the courts are likely to see a significant uptick in eviction filings. According to a February 2023 Census Household Pulse Survey, more than one in three California renters who are behind on rent (36%) think it’s at least somewhat likely that they will have to leave their home in the next two months due to an eviction. An increase in evictions could increase California’s homeless population and catalyze emigration away from the state.
PPIC will continue to monitor eviction trends and their impact on other social issues throughout the state as new court data becomes available and remaining local eviction moratoriums end.