- State Moratorium on Evictions
During the COVID-19 state of emergency California landlords cannot evict a tenant for non-payment of rent due to financial disruption related to COVID-19 pursuant to an executive order by Governor Newsom.
To qualify for eviction protections under this order, California tenants must:
- Be current on the rent due before March 27, 2020;
- Demonstrate that the COVID-19 has impacted them. Impacts include;
- Contracting or suspected of contracting COVID-19;
- Caring for a household or family member who has contracted or was suspected of contracting COVID-19;
- Income disruption via layoff, wage or hour reduction, business closure, or other income reduction resulting from COVID-19, the state of emergency, or a government response; or,
- The tenant missed work to care for a child whose school was closed in response to COVID-19.
- Within seven days after the rent comes due, provide the landlord written notice of inability to pay rent due to the COVID-19 impact, with supporting documentation. Supporting documentation includes, termination notices, payroll checks, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or signed letters or statements from an employer or supervisor explaining the tenant’s changed financial circumstances, to support the tenant’s assertion of an inability to pay.
Although Tenants must pay back any deferred rent, the California COVID-19 eviction moratorium does not specify a time frame for repayment. The California COVID-19 eviction moratorium is currently in effect until at least May 31, 2020. Tenants who fail to pay back rent owed after that date are no longer protected by the state-level moratorium order.
- Local Moratoria on Evictions
The Governor had previously suspended preemption of local government regulation of evictions by executive order. Many individual local governments (counties and municipalities) have since enacted additional eviction restrictions and limitations. Each one is slightly different. For example, Oakland enacted a complete eviction moratorium. Oakland landlords are generally banned from evicting tenants even if the failure to pay is unrelated to COVID-19. Also, in Oakland, landlords cannot evict tenants who could not pay because of COVID-19 based financial hardships even after the emergency ends. San Francisco has also extended its moratorium to all types of evictions-not just COVID-19 related.
San Mateo County passed an emergency moratorium effective 3/24/20 on all no-fault evictions of residential tenants who demonstrate COVID-19 related inabilities to pay rents. Landlords must provide tenants with a form from the County Department of Housing that states the amount of rent due, and tenants must provide documentation within 14 days of receiving the form that inability to pay is due to COVID-19. Tenants then have up to 180 days after 3/31/20 to repay any back rent due.
The following (to date) California counties have enacted their own COVID-19 eviction laws: Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Nevada, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Ventura, Yolo.
The following (to date) California cities have enacted their own COVID-19 eviction laws: Agoura Hills, Alameda, Albany, Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Baldwin Park, Benicia, Berkeley, Burbank, Camarillo, Chula Vista, Clear Lake, Concord, Culver City, Davis, El Monte, Elk Grove, Emeryville, Fresno, Glendale, Goleta, Hayward, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Nevada City, Oakland, Ojai, Oxnard, Palm Springs, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Richmond, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Leandro, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Simi Valley, Stockton, South Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Union City, Vallejo, Watsonville, West Hollywood, West Sacramento, Woodland
III. Court Processing Restrictions and Limitations on Evictions
Courts are not processing most eviction cases at the moment. On 4/6/20, the California Judicial Council (which guides California courts) issued a rule that an eviction case (residential or commercial) will not proceed either during the state of emergency or 90 days after the emergency ends (regardless of whether the eviction is COVID-19 related) unless the eviction is necessary to protect public health and safety. Courts cannot issue a summons on a complaint or enter a judgment against a tenant who doesn’t respond to a summons. Court trials in pending cases will be delayed for at least 60 days. In short, there is a temporary freeze on eviction cases though this does not prevent filing new cases. California also gives residential tenants affected by COVID-19 who are already in the process of being evicted an extra 55 days to respond after being served with a summons.
- Tenants and Landlords affected by COVID-19 Should Cooperate
California tenants and landlords who are affected by COVID-19 should work cooperatively to negotiate a rent payment plan – in writing – that is fair and reasonable to all parties during this time of crisis.
Though landlords cannot prosecute an eviction lawsuit (in most cases) during the COVID-19 crisis, tenants should not assume that this provides automatic protection from payment of rent, or from being evicted later. Tenants should bear in mind that these ordinances are eviction moratoriums, not rent moratoriums; the tenant is still responsible for any rent that he or she foregoes paying now – in some cases in as little as 90 days. Some local ordinances require a partial payment of rent which may be a good idea given that it will all be due to be paid eventually. Also, tenants should bear in mind that almost all ordinances/orders require that a tenant to notify his or her landlord in writing about his or her inability to pay rent because of COVID-19 – in some cases before the rent is due.