Proposed program could keep Fresno tenants from eviction

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The expiration of California's rental eviction moratorium is looming.

After June 30, tenants will be faced with rent payments that, in some cases, have been put off for almost a year.

Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez says that's why he's proposing 'Keep Fresno Housed,' a program to provide landlords and the thousands of tenants impacted by the moratorium with a mediation solution.

"So we are anticipating over 8,000 folks are going to be in that category," said Chavez. "So this is really the solution to minimize the amount of folks that are going to get evicted."

Chavez says the mediation would focus on determining the lawful basis of eviction before taking the matter to court.

"It will essentially mediate a lot of these disputes or issues or maybe disagreements that exist within the current lease agreements," he said.

Tenants would be asked questions like...'Do you believe this eviction is unlawful?' and 'In the last year, have you paid rent?'

Those who utilize the 'Keep Fresno Housed' mediation program would be prioritized to receive a portion of the city's more than $30 million in rental assistance. Tens of thousands of dollars have already been distributed to applicants in Fresno.

Chavez says in some cases, landlords have forgiven about 20% of the rent in order to receive $5,000 in back rent.

"We just don't want folks to be out there homeless and this is part of that solution," said Chavez.

Ivanka Saunders from Leadership Counsel says more protection is needed for tenants who have fallen on hard financial times due to the pandemic and are actually being rightfully evicted.

"If you were to receive that notice, 'In three days, pay or get out,' would you know what to do? Most of the general population of folks wouldn't know what to do," she said.

She suggests free legal counsel if the dispute ends up in court, as a last resort.

The Keep Fresno Housed proposal will go before the city council Thursday.
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