An attorney says the total unpaid rent due to five landlords is "a little bit over $200,000. That is just a starting point."
ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Five Bay Area landlords are suing Alameda County "alleging that its eviction moratorium infringes on rental housing providers' constitutional rights and violates state law."
Rakesh and Tripti Jain are among the property owners suing the county.
The Jain family rented their house in Fremont to a tenant who they say defrauded them from the beginning. Their tenant gave them a fake W-2 and fake checks in early 2020.
Two months later, the pandemic hit and for the past two years, Alameda County's COVID moratorium has protected those tenants from getting evicted. Their tenant owes them over $100,00 in back rent. Tripti says suing the county is their last resort.
"I know there are people who needed this protection, but there are people who have taken advantage of the situation and the city and definitely the county is not willing to revisit their moratorium," said Tripti Jain.
Tripti feels responsible to hold the county accountable not only for her case but for all the other small property owners who contacted her after our story aired in April.
Many property owners who've contacted Tripti say they feel trapped by the county.
"After my story was aired on ABC7 News by you there were many landlords who got in touch with me," said Jain.
The California Apartment Association filed the lawsuit in federal court challenging Alameda County's COVID moratorium as illegal.
"They are depriving property owners of their ability to use or control their own properties. That is what we are taking on," said Whitney Prout, CAA Attorney.
The lawsuit is seeking for the county to pay the property owners and to change the moratorium.
"There is really no end in sight for it. It's slated to stay in effect for as long as there is a public health emergency in the county. We have no idea when that declaration might come to an end. If the moratorium outlives that declaration it stays in effect until 60 days after. The other thing is the exceptional broad nature of the moratorium itself. It essentially prohibits all evictions for any reason," said Prout.
Prout says the total of the unpaid rent that is due to the five landlords is "a little bit over $200,000. That is just a starting point."
Alameda County's board of supervisors has the power to revisit the moratorium. We contacted all the board members and some refused to speak on camera. Others did not respond. As to Tripti, she hopes now they listen.
"This is an official lawsuit. They were not replying to me before, but now they will have to," said Tripti Jain.
The county has 21 days to respond to this lawsuit and there's a possibility that more landlords can be added to the suit.
Alameda County received $129 million from the state to help tenants pay for backed up rent. They have approved 6,564 applications and still have over 7,777 to review. The county has $34 million left.
Alameda County caps its payments at 12 months. Tripti and Rakesh were paid for one year of rent by the county but say that doesn't cover the more than two years of back rent their tenant owes them.
"The county needs to understand that this is one-sided law they have prolonged for two years. When the county has no money to pay the landlords I don't think they should expect landlords to pay for other families," said Jain.
The state's eviction protection ends June 30, but Alameda County's protections don't have an end date and their funds are running out.
If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live