Vaccines are being administered, indoor and outdoor activities are beginning to resume throughout California and it would appear that life is starting to get back to normal. Well, not quite. Before you get ahead of yourself, a litany of COVID-related protections remain in place, namely in the landlord-tenant arena. The below is a quick refresher on the state of landlord-tenant protections in California, all of which must be considered before you seek to return to business (and evictions) as usual.
SB 91 – COVID Eviction Protections Extended Through June 2021
Our last landlord-tenant summary focused primarily on California’s then recently passed Assembly Bill 3088, adopted at the end of August 2020 and formally known as the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 (“AB 3088”). In short, AB 3088 was designed to protect residential tenants—not commercial tenants—who faced, and continue to face, economic hardship due to COVID-19. With limited exceptions, the protections of AB 3088 apply to any tenant who is unable to pay all or part of their rent due to a COVID-19-related financial impact, so long as they provide an economic hardship declaration to the landlord within a specific period of time. A more detailed breakdown of AB 3088 can be found at our previous post here.
Currently, the protections of AB 3088 remain largely in place. Originally slated to protect residential tenants only through January 2021, the AB 3088 safeguards were extended by a second piece of legislation signed by Governor Newsom on January 29, 2021, known as Senate Bill (“SB 91”). The main thrust of SB 91 was to preserve the vast protections afforded by AB 3088 and extend its provisions another six months through June 2021. As a result of SB 91, no residential tenant can be evicted before June 30, 2021, if the basis of the eviction is rent that has been unpaid due to a COVID-19-related hardship and the tenant attests such fact under penalty of perjury. Additionally, if the tenant pays 25% of the rent owed from September 2020 through June 30, 2021, then the tenant cannot be evicted after the June 30, 2021 expiration. Landlords will be able to recoup the remaining rent balance owed after June 30, 2021, via a reconfigured small claims court. Alternatively, SB 91 also instituted a rental assistance program whereby residential landlords can apply to recover up to 80% of the unpaid rental balance through federal funds.
Also remaining in place and a key point to keep top of mind, among other things, is the expansion of the “just cause” eviction requirement. In essence, unless a tenant fails to attest to his or her COVID-related financial hardship, a residential tenant may only be evicted for either an “at-fault just cause” or “no-fault just cause.” In essence, unless a tenant fails to attest to his or her COVID-related financial hardship, a residential tenant may only be evicted for either an “at-fault just cause” or “no-fault just cause.” In other words, whereas “just cause” was previously only required if certain length of possession thresholds were met (see Civil Code section 1946.2), AB 3088 extended just cause to all tenancies and this protection has been extended via SB 91.
The foregoing is a relatively general and tremendously compressed explanation of SB 91 (and AB 3088), and a thorough review of the Bill’s intricacies is highly recommended. To assist in such review, our Firm has put together this simplified and updated version of our prior flowchart.
Again, What About Commercial Tenancies?
Like AB 3088 that came before it, SB 91 did not extend eviction protections to commercial tenants. As a result, commercial landlords and tenants should continue to look for guidance on whether a commercial eviction can proceed by turning their attention to the respective eviction moratoriums in place, if any, at the city and county levels.
The City of San Diego (the “City”), for instance, currently has its own eviction moratorium in place that sets forth the specific rules and regulations that would either permit or prohibit a commercial landlord from pursuing the eviction of a commercial tenant. The City of San Diego’s commercial eviction moratorium was re-adopted on January 26, 2021 and will remain in place until June 30, 2021. Under the City’s commercial eviction moratorium, a commercial landlord cannot endeavor to evict (e.g. serving 3-day notices, filing unlawful detainer) a commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant gives the landlord written notice of its inability to pay rent on or within seven days after the rent payment was due. The tenant’s notice must specify that the inability to pay is due to financial impacts related to COVID-19. The tenant will only be required to provide supporting documentation if the landlord asks for it within seven days of the tenant’s notice. If notice is sufficiently given by the tenant, the commercial tenant will have six months (or until December 30, 2021) to pay the unpaid rental balance due.
Our Firm has also put together a summary flowchart of the City of San Diego’s commercial eviction moratorium to help commercial landlords and tenants through avoid likely pitfalls.
Whereas the above only pertain specifically to the City of San Diego, if a commercial eviction moratorium is in place at your city or county levels, such moratoriums typically apply exclusively to the non-payment of rent scenario; but, landlords and tenants should carefully review each particular moratorium for the specific provisions, prerequisites and/or deadlines included in their respective moratorium, if any. As of the date of this posting, eviction moratoriums are currently in place in Southern California in, among other places, Carlsbad, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County. Notably, San Diego County does not have an overarching eviction moratorium in place; but, rather, such moratoriums, if any, are unique to the specific cities within the County.
As we near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to get back to business as usual, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that many COVID-related legislative actions and changes, particularly in the landlord-tenant space, will likely remain in place for months, if not years, to come. The landscape will continue to shift, and landlords and tenants should continue to look for the most recent updates with respect to how best to proceed, or not proceed, in the context of evictions.
The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.
 Oddly, the City of San Diego’s prior commercial eviction moratorium expired on September 30, 2020, and many commercial evictions were able to move forward given the gap in protection between October 1, 2021 through January 25, 2021.