With the expiration of statewide tenant protections in California, excluding the ongoing moratoriums of the city and county of Los Angeles, the rate of unlawful detainer filings has since steadily increased. On March 31, 2022, state protections under AB 832, the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act, expired. Nonetheless, with the passage of AB 2179 on March 31, 2022, an extension of eviction protections under AB 832 was prolong till June 30, 2022, giving more time for the processing of rent relief application that were submitted to a state or local rental assistance program on or before March 31, 2022. Eviction protections under AB 2179 includes rents due between April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022. During the months leading up to the dates, many owners delayed filing an unlawful detainer, awaiting a more favorable period of time beyond local and state tenant protections.
According to the Judicial Council of California, between March 2020 and August 2020, legal filings, including a considerable number of unlawful detainers, declined by 39 percent compared to the same period in 2019, while final settlements or determinations in a case dropped by 49 percent; meanwhile, California courts have observed the volume of filings gradually return to pre-pandemic levels since late 2021. Many of these filings include rental property owners who waited for the June 30 extension of tenant protections under AB 2179 to pass before filing, as well as landlords who have already filed but were delayed due to the moratorium or other factors. With considerable pent up demand for unlawful detainer filings, an indication of this potential volume is in the response of Geoffrey Ross, deputy director at California Department of Housing & Community Development, to the non-profit Cal Matters, referencing the over 13,000 rent relief applications missing required documents or still in the appeals process, with hopes of completing their workload by August 2022. As of June 30, 2022, this number does not include approximately 404,000 complete but pending rent relief applications.
Shifting our focus to the moratoriums of the City and County of Los Angeles, tenant protections in the County, which began on April 1, 2022, will continue through December 31, 2022. Tenants residing in Los Angeles County may not be evicted for non-payment of rent, late charges, interest, or any other fees if the tenant shows an inability to pay due to COVID-19. To evoke the protection of the county, tenants are required to notify their landlord, through “self-certification,” within seven (7) business days after the date that the rent became due, usually the first of the month. This must be done every month. The County of Los Angeles has drafted a document tenants can use to notify landlords of their inability to pay rent due to a COVID-19 related financial hardship. Nonetheless, tenants may elect to phone, mail, or tell landlords directly of their inability to pay on a particular month. Lastly, if landlords have a complete and pending application for rent relief, it is suggested that they allow their application to process before filing an unlawful detainer despite the state protections expiration on June 30th, for the processing of rent relief application will continue beyond this date.