On March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency in the State of California as a result of the threat of COVID-19. On March 16, 2020, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order suspending any provision of state law that would preempt or otherwise restrict a local government's exercise of its police power to impose substantive limitations on residential or commercial evictions when:
- The basis for the eviction is nonpayment of rent, or a foreclosure, arising out of a substantial decrease in household or business income or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and
- The decrease in household or business income or the out-of-pocket medical expenses described above was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or by any local, state, or federal government response toCOVID-19 and is documented.
In essence, the Executive Order allows the local jurisdictions, based on their particular needs, to determine whether or not measures to promote housing security and stability and/or promote stability amongst commercial tenancies is conducive to and/or necessary to protect public health or to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. To the extent of the limitation imposed by the local jurisdiction in accordance with the foregoing requirements, the statutory cause of action for judicial foreclosure (Code of Civil Procedure section 725a et seq.; the statutory cause of action for unlawful detainer (Code of Civil Procedure section 1161 et seq.; and any other statutory cause of action that could be used to evict or otherwise eject a residential or commercial tenant or occupant of residential real property after foreclosure is suspended. The protections afforded by the Executive Order remain in effect through May 31, 2020, unless extended. Nothing in the Executive Order, however, relieves a tenant of the obligation to pay rent, nor restricts a landlord's ability to recover rent due.
San Jose and San Francisco became the first major cities in California to put temporary moratoriums on residential evictions. Since then, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and a number of other cities have enacted similar measures. Ordinarily, under state law, cities and counties are prohibited from regulating commercial evictions. Following issuance of the Executive Order, however, San Francisco and Los Angeles have recently expanded the scope of their respective moratoriums to include commercial tenants. In a recent press release, San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated that the additional moratorium on evictions "will prevent any small to medium-sized business from being evicted due to a loss of income related to lost revenue or other economic impacts caused by the COVID-10 pandemic." Similarly, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's order adopted this week provides that "No landlord shall evict a commercial 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. These circumstances include loss of business income due to a COVID-19 related workplace closure, child care expenditures due to school closures, health care expenses related to being ill with COVID-19, or reasonable expenditures that stem from government-ordered emergency measures."
Note that each particular moratorium contains details as to how and when the moratorium can be implicated. They also may include periods for repayment of rent and other particulars.
Things are moving quickly, and actions being taken by cities and counties remain fluid. Before proceeding with any evictions for nonpayment of rent, it is imperative to check with the appropriate local jurisdictions to confirm whether or not moratoriums have been put in place.