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New Data Shows Evictions Increasing During Pandemic

Part of a "Rent-Strike" Caravan that drove through San Diego County on Friday, May 1, 2020.
Max Rivlin-Nadler
Part of a "Rent-Strike" Caravan that drove through San Diego County on Friday, May 1, 2020.

New numbers obtained by KPBS on Thursday show that evictions are continuing in San Diego County, despite a state bill meant to stop many of them during the pandemic.

Since a statewide eviction moratorium expired in September, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department tells KPBS it has assisted in 156 evictions through the end of November, with the number of evictions increasing from October to November.

New Data Shows Evictions Increasing During Pandemic
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Housing court cases have been held mostly virtually during the pandemic, with landlords, tenants, and lawyers appearing by phone.


In one case Thursday morning, San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer heard a virtual case where a landlord was attempting to get a tenant evicted. The landlord and their attorney were claiming that the tenant hadn’t paid their full security deposit back in June.

Under the state law passed this summer, tenants only have to pay 25% of their rent each month to avoid eviction. But there’s nothing specifically in the legislation about unpaid security deposits.

RELATED: San Diego County Reopens COVID-19 Rental Assistance Application Period

Legal Aid attorney Allysa Martinez argued the tenant couldn’t be evicted under the new state law, but presiding over the case from his courtroom, Meyer wasn’t so sure and declared a mistrial. The landlord will have to file further paperwork to evict their tenant.

Tenant advocates say the case in Meyer’s virtual courtroom on Thursday is typical of some of the ways that landlords are still trying to evict tenants, despite the state law.


“The evictions have been an attempt to evict folks because of fault like there’s been a breach other than non-payment,” said Greg Knoll, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, which provides free legal assistance to tenants facing eviction.

Knoll believes that tenants are more motivated to stay in their homes right now, as available affordable units run thin.

“The real problem is that unless you know someone on the private market, being homeless and applying for some random apartment, is just not going to get it done," he said. "There’s not a lot of stock available.”

With no federal relief for landlords in months, the situation for many of them has become dire. But tenants are in the same boat — as COVID cases continue to rise and finances get stretched even further.