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AB-2272 Eviction: education, outreach, and legal services: short-term rental assistance.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 08/24/2020 09:00 PM
AB2272:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  August 24, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 2272


Introduced by Assembly Members Gabriel and Chiu Gabriel, Chiu, and Wicks
(Principal coauthor: Senator Skinner)

February 14, 2020


An act relating to real property. An act to add Article 17 (commencing with Section 6250) to Chapter 4 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to housing.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2272, as amended, Gabriel. Real Property: Eviction Defense. Eviction: education, outreach, and legal services: short-term rental assistance.
Existing law specifies certain rights and limitations for landlords and tenants subject to eviction and certain procedures for civil actions involving evictions.

This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation related to a statewide program for eviction defense.

Existing law, the State Bar Act, provides for the licensure and regulation of attorneys by the State Bar of California, a public corporation, governed by a board of trustees. Existing law requires an attorney to maintain short-term deposits of client funds in an Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA), and requires the interest and dividends earned on the account to be paid to the State Bar for the funding of certain programs that provide civil legal services without charge to indigent persons. Existing law requires the board of trustees to adopt regulations and procedures necessary to implement provisions, referred to as the Legal Services Trust Fund Program, that govern the funding of those programs. Existing administrative law establishes a Legal Services Trust Fund Commission to administer revenue from IOLTA and other funds remitted to the Legal Services Trust Fund Program.
This bill would establish the Stable Communities Fund within the Legal Services Trust Fund Program, to be funded upon appropriation by the Legislature, and would require the State Bar, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to distribute moneys in the fund in the form of grants awarded on a competitive basis to certain nonprofit organizations, local governments, or local governmental agencies to provide specified education, outreach, and legal services related to eviction prevention, as specified. The bill would also require that short-term rental assistance be funded, upon appropriation by the Legislature, from the General Fund. The bill would require the State Bar to award the grants according to various criteria, including, among others, prohibiting an applicant from receiving funding from the Stable Communities Fund solely to provide rental assistance and requiring services to be provided at no cost to recipients. The bill would require a grantee to report annually to the State Bar on certain activities, services, and assistance funded by the grant, and would prohibit a grantee from using more than 10% of the allocation received from the Stable Communities Fund for administrative costs.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) There currently exists in the State of California a housing and homelessness crisis.
(b) Residential evictions have contributed to the housing and homelessness crisis by exacerbating community instability and displacing households from existing housing. For example, research indicates that a household that has experienced an eviction or received an eviction notice in the past is at significantly increased risk of becoming homeless.
(c) Representation in the judicial eviction process is extremely imbalanced. For example, 90 percent of landlords nationwide benefit from legal representation in eviction proceedings, while only 10 percent of tenants are able to secure legal assistance in evictions.
(d) Evidence demonstrates that increasing the availability of legal resources to tenants facing eviction leads to the avoidance of displacement in many instances.
(e) In addition, providing legal assistance and eviction prevention services to tenants can drastically improve outcomes, has demonstrated economic benefits, and can generate significant cost savings to public agencies. For example:
(1) A study of a proposed Right to Counsel program in the City of Los Angeles found that, for every $1 invested, the program would generate returns of approximately $3.48 to the City of Los Angeles and $4.80 to the County of Los Angeles. The analysis found that this return on investment would be generated primarily by the avoidance of public costs related to shelter and housing programs, school funding, health care, and foster care, and that a Right to Counsel program could provide numerous additional, unquantifiable benefits.
(2) A study of the City of Philadelphia’s Right to Counsel program found that while only 22 percent of unrepresented tenants were able to avoid displacement from their homes through eviction, 95 percent of tenants with representation were able to stay in their homes, and represented tenants were twice as likely to receive a favorable judgment.
(3) A recent evaluation of the City of San Francisco’s Right to Counsel program found that 67 percent of tenants who received representation through that program were able to stay in their homes, including 80 percent of African American tenants.
(4) A recent report on the City of New York’s Right to Counsel program found that in ZIP Codes where it was implemented, 84 percent of represented tenants were able to stay in their homes. In these ZIP Codes, evictions have declined 29 percent.
(5) Numerous jurisdictions have also experienced a decrease in eviction filings in their court system after instituting Right to Counsel programs.
(6) An evaluation of the Sargent Shriver Act Civil Counsel Programs found that due to increased settlements courts were more efficient and had reduced costs.
(f) Programs that pair legal assistance with education, outreach, and financial assistance for renters have demonstrated an enhanced ability to prevent displacement, avoid eviction filings in many instances, and resolve issues that may lead to displacement if left unaddressed.
(g) The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is expected to further exacerbate California’s housing affordability crisis.
(h) Programs that pair legal assistance with education, outreach, and financial assistance for renters will help prevent displacement and help tenants recover economically from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

SEC. 2.

 Article 17 (commencing with Section 6250) is added to Chapter 4 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, to read:
Article  17. Stable Communities - Eviction Prevention and Defense Services

6250.
 (a) The Stable Communities Fund is hereby established within the Legal Services Trust Fund program administered by the State Bar, and it shall be funded upon appropriation by the Legislature. Except as provided in subdivision (b), any moneys in the Stable Communities Fund shall be made available, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to the State Bar to be used as provided in this article. The Stable Communities Fund may be supplemented by philanthropic contributions to expand the scope of services or to fund the provision of additional services to prevent displacement beyond those provided for in this article. The Stable Communities Fund is a separate fund within the Legal Services Trust Fund Program and moneys within the Legal Services Trust Fund Program shall not be used for purposes of this article.
(b) Short-term rental assistance specified in subdivision (c) of Section 6252 shall be funded, upon appropriation by the Legislature, from the General Fund.

6251.
 (a) The State Bar shall distribute funds made available pursuant to Section 6250 to eligible applicants in the form of grants awarded on a competitive basis to fund eligible services pursuant to this article.
(b) The State Bar shall ensure geographic diversity in the distribution of grant funds. The State Bar shall ensure that at least 20 percent of total funds are reserved for making awards to eligible applicants in rural areas. The State Bar may make funds so reserved available to nonrural areas if, after providing notice of the availability of the funding, no qualified applications are received by the application deadline.
(c) That State Bar shall develop guidelines to implement this article.

6252.
 Subject to Section 6250, services eligible to be funded pursuant to this article include all of the following:
(a) Education and outreach services to prevent eviction or displacement, which include the following activities:
(1) Education regarding tenant rights, fair housing laws, landlord obligations, and related legal topics designed to address factors leading to the avoidable displacement of tenants, including, but not necessarily limited to, information regarding access to additional resources to protect against displacement, prevent homelessness, or mitigate the effects of displacement. Education may include the use of media or social media to enhance the delivery of information.
(2) Targeted outreach to buildings and neighborhoods where tenants are at heightened risk of displacement to advise tenants of their rights, the availability of additional resources, and options to prevent or mitigate displacement.
(b) (1) Legal services to prevent eviction or displacement for qualified tenants that include either of the following:
(A) Limited-scope legal services provided in a clinical setting that provide tenants with one-on-one legal assistance designed to prevent eviction or displacement prior to the initiation of the eviction process, resolve issues leading to eviction or displacement, or address other housing-related legal issues that increase housing instability. Limited-scope legal services includes, but is not limited to, assisting with reasonable accommodation requests, addressing habitability issues, advising a tenant of their rights and obligations in connection with rental payments, and addressing housing discrimination.
(B) Full-scope legal representation to qualified households facing eviction or imminent displacement or the threat of eviction or imminent displacement. A legal service provider of a grantee may provide a recipient with full-scope legal representation after a landlord issues any written notice of intent to evict or at any other point at which the legal service provider deems the recipient to be at risk of eviction or displacement. The legal service provider may continue representation of the recipient through any postjudgment motions and, depending on the merits of the case, may provide representation in connection with an appeal.
(2) Legal services described in paragraph (1) shall not be provided to households whose income exceeds 80 percent of the area median income. Self-confirmation shall be an accepted method of documenting eligibility for those services.
(c) (1) Short-term rental assistance provided to households at risk of eviction or displacement that meets all of the following criteria:
(A) The rent does not exceed three times the median rent for the geographic area in which the recipient resides in any calendar year.
(B) The legal services provider or the education and outreach provider determines that the rental assistance would likely prevent the eviction or displacement of the recipient or mitigate the effects of an eviction or displacement on the recipient or their household.
(C) The recipient provides documentation to confirm their household income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income.
(2) A grantee may condition the rental assistance upon the receipt of appropriate assurances on the part of the recipient’s housing provider or prospective housing provider at the discretion of the grantee.

6253.
 (a) An applicant is eligible to receive a grant pursuant to this article if the applicant meets the following criteria:
(1) The applicant is either of the following:
(A) Nonprofit organizations, whether applying individually or jointly, that have the demonstrated capacity and experience to carry out the program requirements.
(B) Local governments or local governmental agencies, submitting applications in partnership with one or more nonprofit described above.
(2) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the applicant agrees to provide all of the services described in Section 6252.
(B) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the State Bar may waive the requirement to provide one or more services described in Section 6252 if the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the State Bar that the geographic area to be served is a rural area where it is not feasible to provide the service or services.
(C) (i) An applicant is not eligible if the only service the applicant would provide is rental assistance.
(ii) An applicant is not eligible if more than 25 percent of the total funds awarded to the applicant would be used for rental assistance.
(3) The applicant agrees to provide all of the services funded by the grant at no cost to recipients.
(4) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the applicant, either individually or in partnership with other entities, agrees to serve recipients without regard to the immigration status of recipients.
(B) An applicant is exempt from subparagraph (A) if the applicant demonstrates a lack of capacity to, and documents efforts to secure partnerships to, provide services without regard to immigration status of the recipients.
(b) The State Bar shall give preference to applications that demonstrate any of the following:
(1) A track record of successfully delivering similar services to low-income renters and vulnerable populations.
(2) Ability to provide services or access to services by community members who are limited English proficient, taking into account relevant languages spoken by populations in the proposed service area.
(3) Ability to provide comprehensive services as opposed to a limited set of services described in Section 6252.
(4) Ability to provide services to particularly vulnerable or underserved populations.
(5) Use of technology, media, and other strategies to serve a larger number of recipients.
(6) Partnerships with other entities that may enhance the reach of the program, including, but not limited to, law schools.
(7) Partnerships between organizations that allow services to be provided to a broader set of community members by addressing barriers related to organizational eligibility requirements.

6254.
 (a) A grantee that receives an allocation pursuant to this article shall provide the State Bar annually with a report on all of the following, as applicable:
(1) A description of the nature of services provided and the number of recipients provided services under each service category.
(2) If the grantee provided education and outreach services, the approximate number of individuals receiving education and outreach services, a general description of the format for providing those services, and the number of properties or other venues at which the outreach and education was conducted.
(3) If the grantee provided legal services, the number and breakdown of recipients for whom limited-scope or full-scope legal services were provided, and whether those services resolved the recipient’s legal issue or the factors leading to displacement.
(4) If the grantee provided financial rental assistance, the average grant of financial assistance to each recipient, the general purpose for which the financial assistance was used, the total amount of financial rental assistance provided by the grantee, and the effect or anticipated effect of the provision of financial rental assistance to the recipient.
(b) If the grantee or a partner of the grantee is a local government or a local governmental agency, the allocation pursuant to this article shall supplement, and shall not supplant, moneys otherwise allocated by the local government or local governmental agency for the provision of legal services for low-income residents or for the prevention of displacement or eviction of low-income renters.
(c) A grantee that receives an allocation pursuant to this article shall not use more than 10 percent of that allocation for administrative costs. For purposes of this subdivision, “administrative costs” does not include staff and overhead costs directly related to carrying out the eligible activities.

6255.
 This article shall not be construed to negate, alter, or limit any right to counsel in a criminal or civil action or proceeding otherwise provided by local, state, or federal law.

SECTION 1.

It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation regarding a statewide program for eviction defense.