A family in Paso Robles is struggling to make ends meet because their rental property investment is now emptying their bank account.
The family says the eviction protection for renters has forced them to cover over $25,000 in expenses within the past year.
“For us to live, our whole family, it’s cheaper for us to live than supporting this other family in this other house,” said Christine Minkkinen of Paso Robles.
Minkkinen has a one-year-old daughter, but instead of enjoying this first year as a mom, she says she’s been in an ongoing battle with tenants in her family’s Atascadero rental property.
“It’s been so much, stress so much paperwork.”
The pandemic has caused a domino effect, with thousands of job cuts due to the pandemic.
Many unemployed tenants can’t pay rent, making it difficult for some landlords to pay their mortgages.
The eviction moratorium in California largely protects renters in the state and it has been extended until the end of June.
Minkkinen empathizes with people who have lost income during the pandemic. “I completely understand it for people who lost a job and are struggling.” However, she says that her particular tenants have jobs but stopped paying rent anyway.
According to Minkkinen, the tenants have also stopped paying utilities and have accumulated so much junk in front of the rental, it’s prompted complaints from neighbors and the City.
California’s Rent Relief program is set up to help relieve financial stress. It's designed for both landlords and tenants to get funds for back rent and utilities.
The Five Cities Homeless Coalition helps tenants and landlords through the program's application process. “The tenant’s rent will be forgiven, and the landlord will accept 80% payment from the state of California through these funds,” explains Janna Nichols, Executive Director of Five Cities Homeless Coalition.
But there is a roadblock for landlords. “Landlords need the tenants to participate in order for them to be paid,” said Nichols.
Minkkinen says her tenants have recently stopped returning her phone calls, leaving her unable to complete the Rent Relief application.
KSBY called Minkkinen's tenants and has not received a response.
In the meantime, Minkkinen said she feels like she is almost out of options. “It’s not right for them to take over our property and we have to pay for it,” said Minkkinen. “We’ve sold a car, we’ve sold a motorcycle, we've used our savings.”
Dennis Balsamo practices law in Arroyo Grande and represents both landlords and tenants. “It’s a terrible time to be a landlord in the state of California, and possibly the United States,” said Balsamo. “Right now, I’m seeing tenants take advantage of the situation...landlords have to jump through all kinds of hoops. ”
Minkkinen is working with an attorney to resolve the situation. “The police say their hands are tied, they can’t do anything. We have to call the sheriff’s department, the sheriff's department says call the court, and the court says 'sorry, we can’t do anything' and it just goes in circles.”
For a landlord learning to navigate their rights, it may seem overwhelming. But Balsamo says, it’s not hopeless but it takes time.
California's COVID-19 Rent Relief program will continue as long as there are funds available. For more information and to apply, click here.