COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (AB 3088)

 

This article is written for California landlords and discusses the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (AB 3088), which is part of the urgency legislation that was signed into law by Governor Newsom. This law is anti-landlord and provides additional eviction restrictions to protect tenants from being evicted through the end of January 2021, with some exceptions.

This article is not intended to be legal advice and provides only a high-level overview of the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (AB3088) and touches on some of the main points of the law relating to evictions, which is effective now. Landlords wanting to discuss their particular potential eviction should schedule a paid eviction consultation with us.

Note: This is a new law and interpretation is subject to change. Consult legal counsel before taking any action.

Non-Payment of Rent Cases under the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (AB 3088)

The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 applies to all non-payment of rent cases between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021. Landlords will need to serve a 15 day notice to pay or quit, instead of the normal 3 day notice. The notice must include a blank declaration that a tenant can sign and return to the landlord. Except for high income tenants, as defined in the law, the tenant is not required to provide any documentation whatsoever as proof that they have been been financially impacted by COVID, meaning, landlords must take the tenant’s word for it if the tenant signs and returns a declaration to the landlord. For rent between September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021, the tenant would have to pay 25% of the rent owed, prior to January 31, 2021. If a tenant meets these very small requirements, then a landlord cannot move forward with an eviction for non-payment of rent prior to February 2021!

High income tenants (and only if the landlord has knowledge of the high income already), can be required to provide documentation to support their claim of being impacted by COVID, if the landlord requests such documentation in the 15 day notice.

If the tenant returns a signed declaration to the landlord for the March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020 rent, then the tenant is protected from being evicted for non-payment of rent. Beginning in March 2021, tenants can be sued in small claims court over these missed payments, but not in eviction court, meaning, the tenant cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent for unpaid rent for the months of March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020, so long as the tenant returns a signed declaration to the landlord and no documentation is necessary to support the tenant’s claim (except for high income tenants).

With respect to rent for the September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 period, if the tenant returns a signed declaration to the landlord and pays 25% of the rent that was due from September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021, then the tenant cannot be evicted for the non-payment. It is important to note that while the tenant is supposed to return the signed declaration to the landlord within 15 days of being served with the notice to pay or quit, the tenant is not required to pay the 25% rent requirement until January 31, 2021, which effectively means if the tenant returns the declaration to the landlord, the landlord cannot move forward with the eviction case until February 2021. If, by January 31, 2021, the tenant submits a payment equal to 25% of the rent that was incurred between September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021, then the landlord is barred from evicting the tenant, and the landlord’s recourse for the unpaid 75% would be a small claims case against the tenant. If the tenant fails to pay the 25% by January 31, 2021, then the landlord would be allowed to file an eviction for non-payment of rent, beginning in February 2021.

You may have noticed a distinction is made between unpaid rent incurred between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, versus September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021, and the law requires the landlord to provide a different declaration form to their tenants depending on if the past-due rent is for March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020, or for September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. Two notices must be provided to tenants if past-due rent includes both timeframes.

If the tenant fails to return the signed declaration to the landlord within 15 days of being served with the 15 day notice to pay or quit, then the landlord is permitted to move forward with the eviction case beginning in October 2020. However, if during the eviction case, the tenant files a motion and claims mistake or something similar and submits the aforementioned declaration during the pending court case, the court is directed to dismiss the eviction case, effectively cancelling the case even though the tenant failed to follow the directions, and even though the landlord has already spent time and money on the case.

Landlords who have tenants who have missed a rent payment from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020 must provide the tenant with a required notice outlining the tenant rights under the law. We offer this template form and it can be ordered from us for $50. The notice is required to be provided to the tenant by September 30, 2020.

Under the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020, any 3 day notice to pay or quit that was served from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 (before the new law took effect), is invalid and a new 15 day notice will need to be served on the non-paying tenant, along with the unsigned declaration.

In many cases, we can create and serve a 15 day notice on your tenant, along with the unsigned declaration. Schedule a paid consultation to discuss.

Evictions Unrelated to Non-Payment of Rent Under the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020

Generally, nuisance-type cases and other rental violations unrelated to non-payment of rent can move forward, and landlords don’t have to wait until October 5, 2020 to file the unlawful detainer case.

Important to note is that if the landlord/owner has entered into a contract for the sale of the property and the buyer intends to occupy the property, and if it is a single family residence with a few other requirements, these eviction cases can proceed.

However, there are other limitations on evictions. For example, the landlord shall be precluded from recovering COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, in connection with any award of damages.

Additionally, all landlords must have a “just-cause” reason to evict the tenant as outlined in AB1482. Properties that are normally exempt from the just-cause requirements under AB1482 are not exempt under the COVID-19 Tenant Protection Act of 2020, meaning, landlords need to specify an appropriate just-cause reason for the eviction and it needs to be stated on the termination notice. With respect to relocation fees under AB1482, thankfully, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 says landlords are not required to provide relocation fees to the tenant if the landlord would not otherwise be required to provide relocation fees under AB1482. Our understanding of this is that while many single family homes are generally exempt from a just-cause requirement under AB1482, even single family home evictions will need to include a just-cause reason for the eviction. However, since single family homes are generally exempt from relocation fees under AB1482, the landlord who rents the single family home to tenants would not need to compensate the tenant in the form of relocation money. On the other hand, if relocation fees would normally be required under AB1482, those fees are still payable to the tenant, but the landlord is allowed to offset it with any unpaid rent that the tenant owes.

Good to Know about the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (AB 3088)

  1. There are added penalties for landlords who try to wrongfully evict tenants during the effective dates of the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020.
  2. The small claims dollar amounts are lifted for recovering unpaid rent.
  3. The 15 day notice to pay rent or quit does not include weekends or judicial holidays.
  4. If the tenant provides the declaration to the landlord (and pays 25% of the September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 rent on or before January 31, 2021), the landlord can not evict the tenant for non-payment of rent. The unpaid rent debt becomes consumer debt, not subject to eviction, and the landlord could pursue the unpaid rent through small claims court, but not through an eviction case.
  5. The one year limitation on demanding back-due rent is tolled.
  6. If a local jurisdiction has an existing eviction moratorium in effect, those laws will be allowed to continue until they expire, and landlords will need to abide by them, but they cannot be extended until February 2021.
  7. If a local moratorium allowed for the tenant to pay the missed rent over several months, and if the provision in effect on August 19, 2020, required the repayment period to commence on a specific date on or before March 1, 2021, any extension of that date made after August 19, 2020, shall have no effect. If the provision in effect on August 19, 2020, required the repayment period to commence on a specific date after March 1, 2021, or conditioned commencement of the repayment period on the termination of a proclamation of state of emergency or local emergency, the repayment period is deemed to begin on March 1, 2021. The specified period of time during which a tenant is permitted to repay COVID-19 rental debt may not extend beyond the period that was in effect on August 19, 2020. In addition, a provision may not permit a tenant a period of time that extends beyond March 31, 2022, to repay COVID-19 rental debt.
  8. Most of the new laws under the COVID-19 Tenant Protection Act of 2020 are in effect until February 2021.
  9. As a side note, the Judicial Council emergency rule 1 expire as of September 1, 2020.

Additional Resources

  1. Schedule a paid 15 or 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your particular case.
  2. Order the required notice that needs to be provided to tenants by September 30, 2020, if the tenant owes any past-due rent beginning on March 1, 2020 ($50 fee).
  3. Watch our AB3088 overview video.
  4. Read the full Text of AB3088, including the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020.
  5. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to receive up-to-date eviction information and landlord best practices.
  6. LA Times article.
  7. CAL Matters article.

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