Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance staff held a virtual webinar Wednesday to inform residents of their rights as tenants and to educate residents on unlawful acts by landlords, such as evictions and discriminatory acts.
Bashar Algabyali, GBLA’s managing attorney for the Fair Housing Law Project, talked about prohibited conduct and reasonable modifications.
“Standard in California is two people per bedroom,” Algabyali said. “If the landlord is not going to allow that, they have to have a good excuse for that. Also Landlords are not allowed to refuse or restrict people with low income.”
Algabyali said that landlords are required to allow reasonable modifications and that the tenants are usually the one who have to pay for these modifications unless the house providers receive federal government funding.
Jina Kim, GBLA staff attorney, talked about the different ways a landlord can commit discriminatory acts.
“If there is a housing provider who was to specially rent to someone who has a job that is a form of source income discrimnation because it will push out those who don’t have a job or have low income,” said Kim.
Kim said that if a landlord accepted your application, and then denied you once they saw you, then that is an example of race discrimination.
“For example, if things were going fine but once the housing provider sees that they are a biracial couple then that is a reason for discrimination,” said Kim.
Another form of discrimination can be disability, according to Kim.
“Disability discrimination also covers the disability connection,” said Kim. “If the housing provider asks the tenant to move out because they suspect they have COVID-19, that is a form of disability discrimination.”
Kim also talked about what their program does to help people and the areas of Kern County the organization covers.
“We try to make presentations of fair housing laws and to provide legal services to people who have complaints of housing discrimination,” said Kim. “We also do investigate complaints of housing discrimination.”
The areas GBLA covers include Bakersfield, Arvin, California City, Maricopa, Taft, Ridgecrest, and Tehachapi.
“Some areas of Kern that we don’t serve are Delano, Mcfarland, Wasco, and Shafter because those areas are served by California Rural Legal Assistance,” said Kim.
Valentin Narvaez, the director of litigation at GBLA, talked about what renters can do if they are being evicted by the landlord or can’t pay rent on time.
Assembly Bill 3088 prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent if the tenant delivers a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress within 15-days after service of a 15- day notice to quit, according Narvaez.
“Although there is protection, rent is not waived,” said Narvaez. “Landlords can’t charge late fees for unpaid COVID-19 rental debt.”
Narvaez said that if you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent there are resources that can help you.
“If a tenant wants to be proactive and feels like they fall under one of those categories they can go to this link landlordtenant.dre.ca.gov/pdf/forms/tenant/1179.02(d).pdf and download the declaration of covid-19 related financial distress,” said Narvaez.
Wednesday’s meeting, Fair Housing 101 & Renters’ Rights Updates During the Pandemic, is part of GBLA’s Fair Housing Law Project and celebrates National Fair Housing Month. The local organizations is hosting a series of virtual conferences to provide more information to renters who have been affected by COVID-19 and need financial assistance.
Those interested in attending future webinars can register by heading to GBLAFairHousing.org or by calling (661)501-0372. The next events include:
April 14 from 10-11 a.m.: Racial Equity in Kern County Housing
April 21 from 10-11 a.,.: Source of Income and COVID-19 Rental Assitance Programs
April 28 from 10-11 a.m.: Tenants’ Rights for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence