Tenants owe $17,000 in rent, landlord sells with renters inside at significant loss


MERCED, Calif. (KGPE) — As the eviction moratorium that has been in effect through the pandemic lingers, some landlords are running out of options.

Under the moratorium, some renters affected by COVID-19 have not paid rent for 11 months now. They are protected for at least another five months under new legislation. But help offered to renters is hindering landlords.

NewsNation affiliate KGPE spoke to Robert Givens, a Merced, California landlord, last month. At the time, his tenants owed him $15,300 in unpaid rent. Now, he is owed $17,000 in unpaid rent since April 2020.

Since evictions are banned under the moratorium, he had to sell his house with the tenants living inside.

“Nobody else — butchers, bakers, candy makers – nobody was told to give their services away for free except the landlords,” Givens said. “So I’m going to be out of the landlord business.”

This month, Robert Givens sold the home he rented out; the house he bought and lived in for thirty years.

“It just feels terrible,” Givens said. “Now, we just have to go on, we have to move on.”

Givens made the decision to sell after going 11 months without being able to collect rent.

“I’m 67 years old, senior citizen, disabled, and I depend on this property for income.”

That was Givens two months ago.

Since then, he has gone to Sacramento seeking help for landlords.

“They’re not thinking of landlords.”

Senate Bill 91 passed the California legislature in late January, which extends the eviction moratorium to at least July 1, 2021.

Givens says he couldn’t keep waiting.

“Since I decided to sell, I’ve had such a relief lifted off my shoulders, even money that I’m losing, so what, my mental health is more important.”

Since he couldn’t evict his tenants, it significantly dropped the value of his home. Givens took a significant loss on the sell; it was $70,000 below market value.

Now the tenants not paying rent are the responsibility of the new owner.

“They’re going to inherit the tenant that they can’t even get out,” Givens said.

Senate Bill 91 does offer an option for landlords to be paid 80% of back-rent if they forgive the other 20% of what’s owed. But it’s dependent on the tenants’ cooperation, pointed out by California’s Apartment Association. It also does not include any relief for months to come still under the eviction moratorium.

“I will be going to court to get the 100% this tenant owes me,” Givens said.

Under Senate Bill 91, any action to recover unpaid rent in small claims court has to wait until Aug. 1, 2021.

Givens says he’s well aware it will be a long time before he sees the $17,000 he is owed.

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