(KRON) – A Bay Area judge ordered the California Department of Housing and Community Development (CDHCD) to stop denying applications for COVID-19 rent relief money while its denials are under review.

This comes after tenant advocate groups sued the state alleging that it wrongly denied tens of thousands of applications. “We’re hoping what this lawsuit eventually results in is that tenants can know why they were denied so they can fix it,” said Jackie Zaneri.

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Jackie Zaneri, Senior Attorney with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, is representing thousands of tenants in a lawsuit against the state. They argue that the state unfairly denied and withheld money from low-income renters who applied for COVID-19 rent relief money.

“Our organization had been seeing a lot of denials that looked spurious. We’ve been seeing tenants denied and they weren’t told the reason they were denied. They were pretty sure that they were eligible, but they were still denied. We know that, as of right now, about a third of all applicants to the program have been denied,” said Zaneri.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ordered that the CDHCD immediately stop denying requests for rental assistance, and any rejected applications issued in the last 30 days be put on pause until he holds a hearing to review the rental assistance program, its practices, and appeals process.

“In order to issue this order, the judge had to rule that there’s a likelihood that the case will succeed meaning that there is a likelihood that the state violated the due process right of thousands of tenants across the state,” said Zaneri.

While the program ended in March, Zaneri said thousands are still waiting for checks or application approval. “Think that everyone should check on their application and see where it is in the process, if they’ve been waiting to hear back, they can call state hotline number,” said Zaneri.