BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It is the end of the eviction moratorium, which prevented property owners from evicting tenants suffering financial strain because of COVID 19.
But, what is the recourse for property owners who had destructive tenants while under the moratorium?
Property owners aren’t always big corporations. They can be mothers, fathers, or senior citizens who need the income from your rent to pay their bills.
The moratorium didn’t mean tenants don’t have to pay their rent. It is essentially an IOU from tenants.
They needed to pay 25% of their back rent to avoid being evicted. Then, tenants have to pay the rest they owe over a mutually agreed time with the property owner.
Meanwhile, most landlords have their own bills to pay. Sometimes, including mortgage payments.
It was the smell. Strong, even putrid. The whole house was saturated in this scent. Within minutes a headache banged in my head like a hammer hitting a nail. But the stench paled in comparison to the sight inside.
The home was mangled. A gutted shell of a once beautiful interior. Broken windows, busted doors and cabinets, scarred walls, holes as big as hands, and a mysterious dark mold growing in the bathroom.
Owner Cheryl Marchman says she’s living a nightmare.
“These 100 dollars add up real quick to thousands,” Marchman said. “Overall, all the cleanup, all the appliances, all the window coverings, all the light sockets, all the electrical, and some of the plumbing. I mean, we’re hitting right at $50,000 possibly more.”
Marchman rented the three-bedroom house to her tenant for four years for $1,200 a month.
Marchman said her tenant was a single mother and worked full time. Marchman said she wanted to help the mother by charging her low rent.
A few months ago, the tenant stopped paying rent and tried to seek refuge with the eviction moratorium even though Marchman says the tenant had a full time position in the medical field.
We reached out to the tenant and her lawyer at the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, the GBLA.
But they wouldn’t talk to us.
“That is just deliberate, malicious acts of just being hateful and mean,” Marchman said. “I just want her held accountable for what she has done.”
Fawn Dessy, the real estate attorney representing Marchman, said it’s taken months of preparation even with the damages to get the tenant out.
Marchman and Dessy were forced to wait to evict the tenant because of the eviction moratorium.
They asked the tenant to leave multiple times.
“The tenant would not move,” Dessy said. “Marchman wanted to take the property off the market to actually incorporate it into a family situation they had going.”
According to Dessy, the tenant’s attorney said the tenant needed time to finalize new living arrangements.
“She was supposed to turn over her keys on a specific date and pay money in the form of a cashier’s check to our office for the additional time she was given to stay at the property,” Dessy said. “She failed to do either one.”
This default allowed Marchman and Dessy to evict the tenant. Now, Marchman plans to file a civil lawsuit against the tenant for all the damages.
Marchman is wife, a mother and a grandmother. This eviction has affected her and her family’s entire life.
“I don’t have that money I have to borrow it and I have to pay it back because of her which is wrong,” Marchman said.
But, even if Marchman wins a lawsuit there is a chance she won’t get anything if the tenant isn’t willing or able to pay.
The home was intended to be for Marchman’s children and grandchildren.
Marchman got a loan and she and the rest of her family continue to work to replace and repair what was once supposed to be the castle to their budding family.
“We’ve just.. I don’t know,” Marchman said. “We’re a little bit overwhelmed it’s going to be rough but we’re going to make it through it.”
The eviction moratorium didn’t protect tenants when they committed crimes or violated other agreements within the lease.
The courts are expected to be crowded with cases from property owners now that the moratorium is over. Whether property owners will be able to collect their money is unknown.