Can You Evict a Tenant in California During COVID-19?

 

During these unprecedented times, and more so than ever before in modern history, the ability of a landlord to evict a tenant in the State of California is under siege. Even prior to COVID-19, California passed statewide rent control and imposed limits on rent increases under AB1482, which took effect on January 1, 2020, with limited exceptions. Now, with COVID-19, the State of California and many local jurisdictions have taken eviction restrictions to entirely new levels. The government is taking swift action to protect renters, while doing little to nothing to help landlords. This article is an update to a previous article that was published on March 19, 2020, called “Covid-19 and Evictions in California,” and offers an update into California evictions during COVID-19, with a particular emphasis on Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, and Santa Clarita. Note that the laws continue to change rapidly, so landlords should consult legal counsel prior to taking any action, as these laws are subject to continual change. No legal advice is hereby given.

California Eviction Moratorium

Misconceptions abound with respect to the current status of evictions statewide and in many local jurisdictions. Contrary to what many people believe, the State of California does not currently have a complete statewide eviction moratorium. On March 27, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-37-20 [PDF], which placed certain restrictions on evictions, but did not place a blanket eviction moratorium on all evictions.

Highlights of the Order include:

  • An extension of time for defendants (tenants) to respond to an unlawful detainer complaint. Under the Order, tenants shall have 60 days after being served with an eviction complaint that is based on non-payment of rent, to respond to the complaint, so long as the tenant satisfies the following:
  • 1. The tenant previously paid rent to the landlord.
  • 2. The tenant notifies the landlord in writing before the rent is due, or within 7 days after the rent is due, that the tenant needs to delay all or some payment of rent because of an inability to pay the full amount due to reasons related to COVID-19.
  • 3. The tenant must retain verifiable documentation to support their claim that they are unable to pay due to COVID-19. The documentation should be provided to the landlord no later than the time when the past-due rent is due.
  • The tenant is ultimately responsible for paying rent.
  • The sheriff is not permitted to execute on a Writ of Possession while the Order is in effect, so long as the eviction was due to non-payment of rent and the tenant satisfies the notice requirements discussed above. Nothing in the Order prohibits the sheriff from executing on a Writ of Possession when the eviction did not pertain to non-payment of rent, or when the tenant failed to notify the landlord that the tenant didn’t pay due to an issue related to COVID-19.
  • Nothing in the Order prohibits a landlord from initiating an unlawful detainer action against a tenant.
  • If an eviction is based on any other reason, including no-fault evictions, the eviction can move forward now.
  • The Order is in effect until May 31, 2020.

City of Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium

The City of Los Angeles went considerably further than California, but still did not enact a blanket eviction moratorium. Evictions can continue to move forward in many circumstances.

On March 23, 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an Order [PDF] that is in effect immediately until April 19, 2020. The Order states that tenants living within the City of LA may not be evicted during the emergency period if the eviction is a “no-fault eviction” and any member of the household is ill, in isolation, or under quarantine. The Order is retroactive to March 4, 2020. The Order makes clear that the tenant is still responsible for ultimately paying rent. The Order also prohibits Ellis Act evictions while the order is in effect and until 60 days after expiration of the Order.

In a prior Order [PDF] dated March 15, 2020, Garcetti ordered that “no landlord shall evict a residential tenant in the City of Los Angeles during this local emergency period if the tenant is able to show an inability to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Order gave impacted tenants up to six months following the expiration of the order to repay the past-due rent.

Then, in an Order [PDF] dated March 17, 2020, Mr. Garcetti broadened his eviction moratorium to include commercial tenancies “if the tenant is able to show an inability to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The rent must ultimately be paid to the landlord, and the tenant would have up to three months following the expiration of the order to repay the past-due rent.

On March 27, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council is seeking to go further than the Mayor, with an ordinance [PDF] that would be retroactive to March 4, 2020. The ordinance would prohibit landlords from evicting residential tenants for non-payment if the tenant is unable to pay rent due to COVID-19. While tenants are still responsible for ultimately paying the past-due rent, they would have up to twelve months (1 year!) following the expiration of the emergency period to repay past-due rent. The city ordinance would also outlaw no-fault evictions during the emergency period. Further, landlords would be unable to evict a tenant during the emergency period for the at-fault reason of allowing unauthorized occupants, pets, or nuisances related to COVID-19. Owners would be unable to charge interest or a late fee, and landlords would be required to give written notice of these protections to the tenant within 30 days of its effective date. The ordinance would also prohibit commercial evictions, if the reason for the eviction is non-payment of rent and the reason for the non-payment is related to COVID-19. Commercial tenants would need to repay the past-due rent within three months following the expiration of the emergency period. Commercial landlords would also be prohibited from charging interest or a late fee.

Update 3/31/2020: The Mayor signed the new ordinance [PDF].

On March 30, 2020, Garcetti issued an Order [PDF] that halts rent increases on occupied rental units that are subject to the LA Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). This means, landlords who own properties subject to the RSO are not permitted to raise rents through sixty days after expiration of the emergency period.

County of Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium

The county of Los Angeles imposed restrictions on landlords. The county eviction moratorium applies in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles county. If the rental property is located in an unincorporated part of the county, then the county has jurisdiction.

The LA County eviction moratorium is retroactive to March 4, 2020, and remains in effect through May 31, 2020. The text of the moratorium [PDF] orders a “temporary moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent by residential or commercial tenants impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” A landlord may not evict a residential or commercial tenant under the order for non-payment of rent or for late charges if the tenant “demonstrates an inability to pay rent and/or related charges” due to COVID-19. The tenant needs to notify the landlord within 7 days after the rent due date, informing the landlord that the tenant is unable to pay. Tenants will have up to six months following the expiration of the order to pay the past-due rent to the landlord. The order encourages both landlords and tenants to work together to establish a payment plan.

In addition to non-payment issues caused by COVID-19, the LA county eviction moratorium prohibits “no-fault” evictions unless the reason for the eviction is due to health and safety reasons.

The California Apartment Association prepared a brochure on the LA County Eviction Moratorium.

Santa Clarita Eviction Moratorium

Nothing yet, but the city of Santa Clarita is considering an eviction moratorium.

Update 3/31/2020: Santa Clarita passed an eviction moratorium that includes non-payment of rent cases where the tenant notifies the landlord within seven days after the rent is due that the reason for the non-payment is due to COVID-19. The moratorium is in effect until May 31, 2020, unless extended. The tenant has up to 6 months after the emergency period to pay the past-due rent to the landlord. The landlord may not impose late fees. Some no-fault evictions are also included. The ordinance applies to both residential and commercial tenants.

Other California Locations

Many other cities and counties have already enacted renter protections, or are contemplating enacting renter protections. Before any landlord decides to begin eviction proceedings in any of the locations discussed herein or in any other location throughout California, be sure to consult with legal counsel to receive up-to-date information related to your possible case.

Courts Delay Unlawful Detainer Proceedings

Several courts throughout California are delaying eviction proceedings in light of COVID-19. The Los Angeles Superior Court and the Ventura Superior Court is highlighted below.

So, Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant During COVID-19?

It really depends! Landlords must consult local jurisdictions to see if a more restrictive eviction moratorium is in effect. If there is no local moratorium in effect, then all California landlords will be limited by California’s eviction restrictions, which are currently set to expire on May 31, 2020. Landlords wanting to evict for non-payment of rent should be particularly careful and should place a note on their 3 day notice, informing the tenant to contact the landlord in writing within 7 days if the reason for the non-payment is due to COVID-19. Tenants should obtain and keep good records to prove that the reason for non-payment was due to COVID-19, and should be prepared to provide such proof to the landlord and the court. If the eviction is due to a reason other than non-payment of rent, depending on any local renter protections, a landlord may be able to move forward with an eviction forthwith. There is no California state-wide ban on evictions.

Regardless of whether or not a local jurisdiction has enacted a more restrictive moratorium than what the State of California has imposed, landlords will encounter substantial eviction delays and court backlogs during the era of COVID-19.

To be continued…

Every effort has been made to provide accurate information as of March 30, 2020. The eviction laws are changing extremely rapidly. Landlords should not rely solely on the information contained herein and should consult legal counsel before making any decisions on how (and if) to proceed with an eviction. An effort will be made to provide updates to eviction laws on both this California eviction blog and on Twitter, so please bookmark this blog and follow us on Twitter. Landlords seeking a consultation can find more information on the Law Office of David Piotrowski’s contact page. Stay safe everyone!

COVID-19 Landlord Forms

Update 4/4/2020: As a landlord, have you received a partial payment from your tenant? We offer a PDF form template to be used by landlords and tenants that details the partial payment and makes clear that the landlord is not waiving the rent but is merely allowing the deferral of rent per law. The form is available for $80. To obtain a copy of the form, click the following link to pay $80 and then a copy of the template will be emailed to you as a PDF. Order Partial Rent Payment Receipt template for $80.

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COVID-19 and Evictions in California

 

The eviction (unlawful detainer) laws are changing in California, almost on a daily basis. The Law Office of David Piotrowski is still open during these times, however, eviction cases will take longer and there are some restrictions on evictions throughout the state. While we do not offer free consultations related to evictions and how COVID-19 may effect your particular eviction, we are temporarily offering $75 consultations for up to 15 minutes of time on the phone, now through March 31, 2020.

This article will outline some of the temporary measures in effect. You may find the answer to your questions below without having to call us to schedule a consultation. It is important to note that this discussion relates to evictions in Los Angeles County and Ventura county only. While this discussion may apply to other jurisdictions as well, this article focuses on LA and Ventura counties only.

California Evictions

Governor Newsom of California has for the most part left it up to individual local governments to decide whether or not to order an eviction moratorium. If a local government were to enact such an eviction moratorium, the governor stated that the moratorium should only apply if:

i) The eviction is for nonpayment of rent, or a foreclosure, arising out of a substantial decrease in household or business income (including, but not limited to, a substantial decrease in household income caused by layoffs or a reduction in the number of compensable hours of work, or a substantial decrease in business income caused by a reduction in opening hours or consumer demand), or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses, and

ii) The decrease in household or business income or the out-of-pocket medical expenses described in subparagraph (i) was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented.

LA City Eviction Moratorium

The city of Los Angeles is enacting an eviction moratorium. The moratorium will likely be approved as early as next week. The City Council’s proposal would give tenant’s the option to repay their past-due rent over the course of many months. See https://la.curbed.com/2020/3/12/21177048/coronavirus-los-angeles-rent-relief-eviction-ban

Many details are still unknown at this time.

LA County Eviction Moratorium for Unincorporated Areas of LA County

An eviction moratorium will be in place through May 31, 2020 in unincorporated parts of LA county, and the eviction moratorium would be retroactive to March 4. The eviction moratorium is for renters who are unable to pay their rent because they lost work due to COVID-19. Tenants would have up to 6 months to repay missed rent.

Other Local Governments

Many other local governments are also enacting eviction moratoriums.

Government Public Housing Evictions

There is, or soon will be, a moratorium on public housing residents. The moratorium does not apply to housing voucher holders. See https://www.curbed.com/2020/3/18/21185666/coronavirus-foreclosure-eviction-moratorium-trump-hud

Expect Court Delays for Unlawful Detainer Actions

Many courts are severely restricting access and closing for extended periods of time, so you can expect delays to eviction cases for the immediate future.

What Does This Mean?

Eviction cases can still move forward and can still be filed for the most part, even if there is a moratorium, if the reason for the eviction doesn’t have to do with non-payment of rent. If the eviction has to do with non-payment of rent, check local laws to see if a moratorium is in effect. If there is a moratorium in effect, it most likely will be for non-payment of rent cases where the reason for the non-payment of rent has to do with COVID-19. The tenant will still ultimately be responsible for paying the past-due rent over the course of several months. If there is no moratorium in effect, the landlord can proceed with the eviction, even for non-payment of rent. Expect long court delays.

Note that the eviction laws have been changing almost daily recently, and what is stated above today could be out-of-date by tomorrow. Thus, the above information should be used a general information only and not as legal advice. If you would like to discuss your particular case, please reach out to the Law Office of David Piotrowski and we can schedule a 15 minute call for $75.

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Evicting a Tenant in Santa Clarita and Valencia

 

As a landlord, are you having trouble with a tenant in Santa Clarita or one of the surrounding communities? This video discusses common reasons for evicting a tenant in Santa Clarita. Our firm represents landlords only, and we are local.

Santa Clarita Landlord Eviction Attorney

The most common reasons for evicting a tenant in Santa Clarita and Valencia, include:

  1. Non-payment of rent
  2. Violating a term of the rental agreement
  3. Assigning or subleasing
  4. Causing a nuisance or damaging the property

If your Santa Clarita tenant is at-fault by doing any of the above, contact us for information on beginning the eviction process. Landlords needing help with an eviction in the Santa Clarita area can contact the Law Office of David Piotrowski.

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AB1482 Eviction Exemptions

 

This video discusses exemptions to AB1482, commonly known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.

As background, AB1482 was brought about by the democratic-controlled California government and was signed by Governor Newsom in October of 2019. AB1482 takes effect on January 1, 2020.

This video outlines exemptions to the AB1482 rules. If your rental property does not fall into an exemption to AB1482, then your property is not exempt from the just-cause eviction requirements under AB1482, and you must have a specific reason for the eviction known as “just-cause.” However, if your rental property falls within an exemption to AB1482, then you do not have to have a just-cause reason for the eviction. If your rental property is already subject to another rent control law, though, such as the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), then those rules still apply.

Some of the most common exemptions to AB1482 are discussed in this video, and include properties that are less than 15 years old, single family homes that are owned by individuals, duplexes where the owner/landlord lived in one of the units at the beginning of the tenancy and continued to live in the unit throughout the tenancy, and homes in which the owner/landlord shares kitchen or bathroom facilities with the tenant.

If the rental property is not exempt from AB1482 just-cause eviction protections, then just-cause eviction protections take effect when the tenant has resided in the property for 12 months.

We also publish a video on AB1482 and eviction just-cause.

Landlords needing help with an eviction can contact the Law Office of David Piotrowski.

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AB1482 – Overview of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019

 

AB1482, commonly known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, takes effect on January 1, 2020, and results in several restrictions on landlords. Unless the rental property is exempt from the restrictions in AB1482, this new law specifies that a California landlord may only evict a tenant if the landlord has just-cause.

This video provides an overview of AB1482, commonly referred to as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019

Just-cause reasons for eviction can be broken-down into “at-fault” and “no-fault” reasons for eviction. If the landlord does not have either an at-fault or a no-fault reason for eviction under AB1482, then the landlord cannot evict the tenant, unless an exception to the law applies.

Landlords needing help with an eviction can contact the Law Office of David Piotrowski.

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