Evictions in California During the Pandemic – SB91 Updates

In September 2020, after seven long months of waiting for state-level legislation relating to evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, The California Legislature released AB3088. AB3088 established some statewide consistency where previously only a confusing mosaic of variegated local ordinances, and a temporary judicial counsel rule, were in place to protect against the potential of a housing crisis. The protections of AB3088 were initially set to expire on January 31, 2021.

On January 29, 2021, the Governor of California approved SB91, which extends the primary protections of AB3088 to June 30, 2021, and adds some significant new provisions which impact renters and landlords in California.

Under SB91, tenants in California who do not pay rent or other monetary obligations under the terms of their lease can be served with a 15-day notice to pay or quit. Tenants can avoid eviction by returning a sworn declaration indicating that they have suffered from a COVID-19 related financial hardship and are unable to pay. Only tenants who were “high-income” at the time of move-in are required to submit supporting documentation to prove their financial hardship. If a declaration of hardship is submitted, tenants are only required to pay, by June 30, 2021, 25% of all past-due monetary obligations which initially accrued between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. If a declaration is submitted, and the 25% is paid, landlords cannot evict the tenant for non-payment of monetary obligations, even after June 30, 2021. Landlords can serve a new 15-day notice each month, and a new declaration or hardship must be submitted for each notice that is served.

SB91 also establishes basic guidelines for the implementation of a rental assistance program. Landlords and qualifying tenants can work together to apply for rental assistance that will pay 80% of a tenant’s past-due rent. In exchange, landlords must agree to waive the remaining 20% and will not be able to proceed with eviction or collect the remaining 20% through a breach of contract action. The law provides both explicit and implicit incentives for both landlords and tenants to take advantage of the program. The deadline for local and state agencies to implement the rental assistance program is March 15, 2021.

Many local ordinances, especially in the most populated cities and counties in California, add complications and barriers to serving 15-day notices and attempting to proceed with eviction. In general, landlords should consult with an attorney if they are having any trouble with their tenants.

NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice please contact an experienced attorney. For more information visit the PKS Law Group, P.C. at www.pks-lawgroup.comor email info@pks-lawgroup.com .