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Demystifying Eviction Moratoriums

The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-ranging effects on businesses in California, especially regarding landlord- tenant issues. There have been emergency orders and various laws enacted which can be confusing. Below is a summary which explains the laws and orders pertaining to managing rental property.

Residential Properties

The Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 (“AB 3088”), signed into law by Governor Newson on August 31, 2020, provides expanded and extended protections for residential tenants under various COVID-19 tenant relief bills.

These relief bills prevent a residential tenant from being evicted before September 30, 2021 for rent owed between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 if the tenant provides a declaration of a COVID-19 related hardship.

Further, this legislation does the following:

  1. Allows tenants with COVID-19 related hardship to pay a minimum of 25% of rent owed between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 to avoid eviction;
  2. Extends the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide the tenant with additional time to respond to the landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit; and
  3. Requires landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if the rental agreement was negotiated in a different language; and tenants notice detailing their rights under the bill.

The legislation does not relieve a tenant from their rent payment obligations; however, the unpaid rent cannot form the basis for an eviction action. Landlords may begin to recover the rent owed from a COVID-19 affected tenant on November 21, 2021 through a civil debt collection action in small claims court.

It is also important to check local regulations and laws relating to COVID-19 rental relief: The legislation also permits existing local ordinances and moratoriums to remain in place until they expire. However, local jurisdictions are prohibited from passing any extensions relating to residential evictions for nonpayment of rent.

Commercial Properties

California’s Governor issued executive orders that suspend state laws (including Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1940 to 1954.1, 1954.25 to 1954.31), preempting or restricting local government’s ability to limit evictions. Local governments may now only suspend evictions when both of the following conditions are met:

  1. The basis for the eviction is nonpayment of rent or a foreclosure arising out of: (a) A substantial decrease in household or business income, or (b) substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and
  2. The income loss or medical expenses are caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Again, local ordinances must be reviewed and taken into consideration. For example, in Los Angeles County, there is an executive order declaring a temporary moratorium on evictions for tenants impacted by COVID-19, the County Board of Supervisors extended the moratorium to be in compliance with the state legislature. It is set to expire September 30, 2021. Other cities in Southern California, such as Santa Ana and Santa Monica have opted to extend commercial eviction moratoria until September 30, 2021, whereas cities such as Anaheim and Irvine defer to the state laws, and the city of Costa Mesa has completely repealed the temporary moratorium on commercial evictions.

Evictions are technical and in all instances landlords who attempt to remove tenants without following the proper procedures are subject to lawsuits from their tenants. Legal counsel is generally always necessary when evicting tenants. The lawyers at Vogt, Resnick & Sherak, LLP are ready to assist you with regard to your landlord-tenant questions.