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  • Writer's pictureDavis Yu

California Re-closing: What this Means for Landlords and Tenants

July 27, 2020



In the midst of a global pandemic, tenants worry about rental payments owed while landlords continue to experience the loss of rental payments. As the state proceeded to move through Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan to reopen, Newsom recently ordered the state to roll back on its reopening plan on July 13 due to surging COVID-19 case numbers.


After declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 on March 5, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-37-20 that banned the eviction of residential renters who were affected by COVID-19. This Order was issued on March 27, 2020 protecting renters who satisfied all requirements of the Order from eviction until May 31, 2020. Executive Order N-37-20. On July 7, Gov. Newsom signed Executive Order N-71-20, which effectively extended statewide eviction moratoriums until September 30. Executive Order N-71-20.


On April 6, the Judicial Council of California adopted a set of emergency rules (“Judicial Rules”) to provide courts across California with consistent guidance on how unlawful detainers and judicial foreclosures should be handled. Under the rule, all evictions must cease, other than those necessary to protect public health and safety.


With current eviction cases, the rules immediately suspended tenants’ obligations to file a response, established that no default judgments for eviction were to be entered against tenants, and suspended all orders to appear in court. The rule will apply until 90 days after the state of emergency has been lifted or the Judicial Council amends or repeals the rule.

Following the establishment of the statewide eviction moratorium, local temporary eviction moratoriums were put in place:


Los Angeles County


Effective as of March 4, the Board of Supervisors implemented a ban on no-fault evictions for residential, commercial tenants, and mobile space renters in Los Angeles County for the nonpayment of rent due to being financially impacted by COVID-19 until September 30. However, the Board may extend the moratorium on a month-to-month basis. The rules do not apply to commercial renters that are multi-national, publicly traded, or have more than 100 employees. If your city has its own moratorium, the County’s rules do not apply.

Under the temporary moratorium, tenants must notify their landlord within 7 days rent is due, unless extenuating circumstances exist, that they are unable to pay rent. It is highly encouraged that tenants provide notice in writing, although not required.

Tenants and commercial tenants with nine (9) tenants or less will have up to twelve (12) months following the end of the Moratorium period to repay past due payments. Commercial tenants with more than 10 but less than 100 employees will have six (6) months to repay payments.


Orange County


As of February 26, Orange County declared a local health emergency. There is no county-wide eviction moratorium, but several cities within the county have enacted specific rules.


Anaheim


Effective March 24, Anaheim passed an eviction moratorium that was extended until June 30. However, the Judicial Rules offer additional protections beyond June 30, barring evictions or foreclosures until 90 days after the state of emergency has been lifted.


Tenants are required to notify landlords in writing by seven (7) days after the rent is due. Proof of reduced income is required.


Santa Ana


The eviction moratorium protects both residential and commercial renters and has recently been extended to September 30.


Residential tenants must notify the landlord in writing of lost income and inability to pay rent due to COVID-19. This notice must be provided within 7 days after the rent is due. Commercial tenants will have 30 days after the rent is due to provide notice. Renters and tenants will have up to 6 months to repay rent once the state of emergency has been lifted.


Fullerton


The Fullerton City Council passed an eviction moratorium ordinance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance applies to both residential and commercial tenants. Tenants are required to provide written notice and proof of substantial income loss due to COVID-19 within 30 days after the rent is due.


This requisite documentation includes, but is not limited to: (1) documentation of employment termination or reduced work hours due to COVID-19; (2) pay stub records; (3) copies of work schedules; (4) bank statements; or (5) extraordinary out-of-pocket medical costs related to COVID-19. The ordinance is effective until the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order in which tenants will have 180 days after such date to make rental payments.


San Diego


The County of San Diego, which applies to unincorporated areas, extended its eviction moratorium to September 30. Landlords are prohibited from evicting residential and commercial tenants for nonpayment of rent due on or after March 4.

Under the moratorium, renters and small businesses must provide written notice to their landlord on or before rent is due. Within 7 days of the written notice, tenants must provide the requisite documentation to confirm inability to pay rent.





What are the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants?


With the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of the state’s reopening, much is left unsaid regarding whether the moratoria will be extended and when eviction proceedings will continue. Both landlords and tenants must be fully aware of the rules and regulations of the moratorium that governs to ensure compliance. It is important to speak with a licensed attorney in order to avoid any liability and/or penalties.


Rights and Obligations of Tenants


Should a landlord initiate eviction proceedings after proper notice is provided according to the terms of the applicable moratorium, tenants are able to raise a legal defense against eviction notices or proceedings. Prior to COVID-19, a tenant was required to file an answer within five (5) days of being served with an eviction complaint. (CCP § 1167). Under the Gov.’s Executive Order, a tenant served with an eviction complaint based on non-payment of rent due to reasons related to COVID-19 will have sixty (60) days to respond.


Under California law, landlords cannot harass or intimidate, physically remove, shut off utilities, and/or change the locks of a unit for the purpose of vacating tenants. Tenants experiencing such occurrences should document each instance to report.


If a landlord collects any copies of documentation of any COVID-19 related financial impacts, including health reasons, the landlord shall keep such information confidential. Because tenants are still obligated to pay back due rent, tenants should pay any portion of rent when possible.


Rights and Obligations of Landlords


Landlords can prepare eviction documents and provide tenants with a copy. However, a new unlawful detainer case will not begin until 90 days after the state of emergency order has been lifted or amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.


During the current state of emergency, landlords are prohibited from demanding late rental payments from tenants who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Most local ordinances preclude the collection or charge of late fees for any deferred rent in addition to initiating an unlawful detainer claim against protected tenants. Additionally, some cities and counties prohibit rent increases during the state of emergency.


Although tenants are not obligated to sign any contracts pertaining to specific terms of a repayment plan, it is highly encouraged for both parties to mutually agree to establish a payment schedule or arrangement. Should a written contract be signed, both parties should consult with an attorney prior.



The content within this article is intended for informational purposes only. The article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion based on any specific facts or circumstances. For specific questions related to this article, please consult with a licensed attorney.






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