By the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed legislation to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. These protections apply to tenants who declare an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason.
“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California — but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent and they deserve protection from eviction,” said Newsom. “This new law protects tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic. California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market. We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”
On Friday, the governor, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced an agreement on the legislation, AB 3088, co-authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, and Senators Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, and Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.
Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021 and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.
The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords, provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.
Additional legal and financial protections for tenants include:
• Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from three to 15 days to provide tenant additional time to respond to landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.
• Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if rental agreement was negotiated in a different language.
• Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.
• Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.
• Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021.
• Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.
Existing local ordinances can generally remain in place until they expire and future local action cannot undermine this Act’s framework. Nothing in the legislation affects a local jurisdiction’s ability to adopt an ordinance that requires just cause, provided it does not affect rental payments before Jan. 31, 2021.
Additional information on the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act can be found at https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Factsheet-Tenant-Homeowner-and-Small-Landlord-Relief-and-Stabilization-Act-of-2020.pdf. For full text of the bill, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19-related hardship accrued between March 4 and Aug. 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19-related hardship that accrues between Sept. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25% of the rent due to avoid eviction.