As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the country and California specifically, and following the news of further rollbacks to reopening plans, many California renters remain in need of protection from both the risk of eviction and relief from the payment of rent. In response to the pandemic, and in an attempt to establish uniform rules for California landlords and tenants instead of a patchwork of local ordinances enacted by cities and counties, on August 31, 2020, California legislators stepped in and enacted into law Assembly Bill 3088 (“AB-3088”), commonly known as the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020. Following its enactment, landlords and tenants confronting issues related to the non-payment of rent due between September 2020 and January 31, 2021, must now look to the rules set out in AB-3088.
Despite the existence of the new statewide moratorium, local ordinances should not be completely disregarded. More specifically, any evictions or repayment-related issues based on unpaid rent that accrued between March 1 through August 31, 2020, will continue to be governed by local eviction moratoria applicable to a subject lease. For example, if a residential tenant in Los Angeles missed rent due in May 2020, the parties (and a court adjudicating an unlawful detainer) would consult the ordinance enacted by the Los Angeles City Council to determine how the scenario should be handled. In case it is helpful, residential landlords and tenants can familiarize themselves with this Fact Sheet summarizing the new statewide moratorium rules.
AB-3088 affords California renters certain temporary eviction protections if they have experienced COVID-19-related financial distress and are unable to pay rent that comes due between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, (the “Covered Period”). The temporary eviction moratorium expires on January 31, 2021. Renters have until March 2022 to repay any deferred rent accruing during the Covered Period.
With respect to evictions based on the non-payment of rent having come due between March through August 2020, local moratoria enacted by California cities and counties would apply and may afford tenants protection from eviction, although such ordinances have been preempted by AB-3088 from September 2020 on.
To facilitate compliance with the requirements of AB-3088 for residential evictions, the California Department of Real Estate has made forms available for each of the relevant statutory notices to be delivered by landlords. Until February 1, 2021, landlords must give at least 15 days’ notice (not including weekends or judicial holidays) to seek payment of rent or pursue eviction.
The forms, which vary depending on the tenant’s financial status and the period rents were due and unpaid, are available here, and should be delivered by landlords to non-paying tenants as follows:
- General Notice (for unpaid rent from March 1 - August 31, 2020). Landlords must deliver this notice to all tenants that have not paid rent between March 1 - August 31, 2020, alerting them to AB-3088.
- 15-Day Notice (for unpaid rent from March 1 - August 31, 2020). Must be sent to all tenants that have not paid rent between March 2020 - August 2020, alongside the General Notice detailed above. The 15-day notice must be served like a 3-day notice and include a Declaration of Hardship Form (detailed below).
- 15-Day Notice (for unpaid rent from September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021). Must be sent to all tenants that do not pay rent from September 1, 2020, onward. The 15-day notice must be served like a 3-day notice and include a Declaration of Hardship Form.
- Declaration of Hardship Form. Must be attached to any 15-day notice. If tenants return this signed form to a landlord within the 15-day period, then a landlord cannot evict due to nonpayment of rent. If the tenants do not sign and return the declaration in the 15-day period, as of October 5, 2020, a landlord is entitled to start the eviction process. Please note that no additional financial documents are required to be provided by the tenant, only this declaration signed under penalty of perjury.
- Notice for High-Income Tenants. In case it applies, this notice must be served with the Declaration of Hardship Form and applicable 15-day notice on any household that landlord knows earns over $100k/year. The tenant must provide additional documentation to support financial hardship (e.g., bank statements, employment termination, etc.) along with its declaration form within the 15-day period.
Note that the rules affecting landlord-tenant relations are subject to further updates and vary by jurisdiction in most instances.