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California Jurisdictions Enact Temporary Eviction Moratoriums In Response to COVID-19

On March 27, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-37-20, placing a statewide ban on the enforcement of evictions of residential tenants who are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19. A number of cities and counties across the state have also passed their own restrictions, some covering both residential and commercial evictions.

The Governor’s new order strengthens a previous directive, Executive Order N-28-20, which gave local jurisdictions the authority to temporarily halt evictions for both residential and commercial tenants, where the eviction is for nonpayment of rent arising out of a substantial decrease in household or business income, or substantial out of pocket medical expenses, caused by either COVID-19 or a governmental response to COVID-19. Many counties and cities responded with local protections for residential tenants and some also offered protections for commercial tenants. The Governor indicated that the new directive for statewide protections was necessary because not enough local jurisdictions had established their own protections.

The Governor’s statewide order will not preempt any local ordinances that provide greater protections. As a result, the impact on landlords and tenants will vary by jurisdiction. Whether at the state, county or city level, each eviction moratorium differs in terms of what types of tenants qualify, what types of conditions are placed on tenants, and the time period during which rental payments may be deferred. However, none of these moratoriums permanently relieve a tenant’s obligation to pay rent.

Below is a more detailed look at the new statewide moratorium on residential tenant evictions and, by way of example, a summary of local moratoriums currently in place in San Francisco and Los Angeles for both residential and commercial tenants.

Statewide Order

Effective immediately, the Governor’s new order provides a moratorium on the enforcement of evictions of residential tenants based on nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 until May 31, 2020. Landlords may still file for eviction, but tenants will have 60 days (rather than the statutory 5 day period) to file a response.

To become eligible, tenants must first notify their landlords in writing, within 7 days after their rent becomes due, that they cannot pay their rent due to reasons related to COVID-19, and provide supporting documentation.

City and County of San Francisco

In San Francisco, residential tenants may not be evicted because of nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 if they notify their landlords, within 30 days after their rent becomes due, that they are unable to pay and provide supporting documentation within 7 days after that. If a tenant cannot pay after the first month’s extension, the landlord must notify the tenant of its breach and work with the tenant to develop a payment plan. Eligible tenants will have up to 6 months after the expiration of the order on April 22, 2020, to repay rent. The order also suspends all other residential evictions if the effective date of the notice of termination occurs before June 21, 2020, not including Ellis Act evictions or evictions due to violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues.

San Francisco also ordered an eviction moratorium for small or midsized businesses that have gross receipts for tax year 2019 of $25 million or less. Prior to evicting such commercial tenants, landlords must provide written notice of violation for nonpayment and an opportunity to cure for at least one month. If the tenant cannot pay at the end of the cure period, the tenant may provide supporting documentation of their financial impacts due to COVID-19 for additional one-month extensions for up to six months after the date the rent was originally due.

City of Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, residential and commercial tenants may not be evicted during the local emergency period if the tenant is able to demonstrate an inability to pay rent due to COVID-19. Impacted residential tenants will have up to 12 months following expiration of the emergency period to repay rent, and commercial tenants will have up to 3 months. A commercial tenant that is a multi-national company, a publicly-traded company, or a company that employs more than 500 employees is excluded from these protections. The city’s moratorium also bans no-fault evictions during the local emergency period and all Ellis Act evictions will be prohibited for another 60 days after that.

Summary

These eviction protections are constantly changing as more local jurisdictions add or expand safeguards for tenants. Landlords and tenants both need to be aware of these orders as they plan a response to the economic fallout from COVID-19.

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