LEGAL ALERT: COVID-19 and Evictions

LEGAL ALERT: COVID-19 and Evictions

By Chris J. Evans, Esq., Kimball, Tirey & St. John

“… the Order is not a statewide moratrium on evictions or your ability to collect rent.”

On March 16, 2020, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order regarding COVID-19 and evictions. We are here to walk you through how this affects you as property owners and managers.

Please note, the Order is not a statewide moratorium on evictions or your ability to collect rent. The Order only authorizes local municipalities to enact restrictions on evicting residents who can document a “substantial decrease” in income caused by COVID-19. All other evictions and termination notices are still authorized, including those for breach of covenant, nuisance and illegal activity.

First, you will need to check to see if your city or county has enacted COVID-19 related eviction restrictions. If your city or county has not enacted an order or regulation, then you can continue your normal rent collection practices, serve pay or quit notices and evict defaulting residents.

Second, if your city has adopted restrictions authorized by the Governor, then the following general rules will apply:

  1. You cannot evict for nonpayment of rent if the basis for the eviction arises out of “a substantial decrease in household or business income (including, but not limited to, a substantial decrease in household income caused by layoffs or a reduction in the number of compensable hours of work, or a substantial decrease in business income caused by a reduction in opening hours or consumer demand), or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and the decrease in household or business income or the out-of-pocket medical expenses described in subparagraph (i) was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented;
  2. Nothing “shall relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay rent, nor restrict a landlord’s ability to recover rent due.”
  3. The protections afforded residents affected by COVID-19 will be in effect through May 31, 2020, unless extended.

Finally, local municipalities may provide for additional requirements, such as: (1) written documentation establishing that a tenant’s inability to pay rent was caused by COVID-19; or (2) that provide tenants with a set period of time after the expiration of an Order to pay back the rent to the landlord (for example six months after May 31, 2020, in San Francisco).

You will need to read any applicable orders or regulations that your city has enacted. Keep in mind that if courts or Sheriffs reduce services, that may impact landlords’ ability to proceed with eviction.

If you have a particular tenant who has not paid rent who can show documentation that he or she has been affected by COVID-19, they may have temporary rights to suspend rent payments through at least May 31, 2020 (unless extended), under this Order. You can still accept voluntary partial payments.

Legal counsel can help draft letters or other documents informing your residents that the current situation does not in any way forgive their current contractual obligation to pay rent.

Editor’s Note: this article was submitted March 18, 2020; keep in mind that laws/orders may have changed on this issue so be sure to check with legal counsel for updates.

Chris Evans is Managing Partner for the Los Angeles office of Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP. He specializes in landlord/tenant issues, unlawful detainers, rent control and affordable housing. If you have any questions regarding this Legal Alert please go to www.kts-law.com for up-to-date information on court closures, lockout and eviction moratoriums or call (800) 577-4587. ©2020 Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP.