The Judicial Council of California’s Emergency Rule 1
On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California adopted 11 categories of COVID-19 emergency rules to assist California courts in a variety of respects, one of which is evictions. Pursuant to Emergency Rule 1, effective immediately, essentially all evictions and unlawful detainers are suspended. The rule prohibits any California Court from issuing a summons on any unlawful detainer complaint, as well as entering the default of any tenant in any unlawful detainer action. There is a narrow exception for actions necessary to “protect public health and safety;” however, this phrase is undefined. Unless amended or repealed, this Rule will remain in place until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the California State of Emergency declaration, which could be several months from now.
The Judicial Council’s eviction suspension is extraordinarily broad in that it does not limit itself to situations in which commercial or residential tenants are grappling with financial difficulties caused by COVID-19, and, instead, serves as a blanket suspension on evictions. Naturally, there is strong opposition from landlords due to the effects this will have a landlord’s ability to evict tenants for issues wholly unrelated to the pandemic. Additionally, similar to Governor Newsom’s eviction Order, the Judicial Council’s rule does not alleviate the root problem of tenants being unable to pay rent. Unless a local ordinance provides otherwise, the rule also does not prevent landlords from engaging in pre-eviction steps, such as serving a 3-Day Notice that can terminate tenancies. As a result, this rule will likely act simply as a dam in the river of landlords pursuing eviction, which will flood the Courts once the Rule is no longer in effect.
Conclusion & Recommendations
Commercial and residential landlords and tenants are facing an incredibly unique and unparalleled set of circumstances. The temporary eviction moratoriums at both the state and local levels, as well as the rules adopted by the Courts, have been enacted to try and combat not only the financial and economic stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the consequences of such stresses, such as losing one’s home or possession of a business. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that there are sure to be situations and instances that remain unaddressed, subject to dispute or simply fall within the inevitable grey areas. Additionally, the landscape will continue to shift and landlords and tenants should continue to look for the most recent updates.
With that in mind, landlords and tenants should try to be patient with each other and remain organized. Document as much of the interactions with your tenant or landlord as you can, and preserve all letters, notices, correspondence (e-mails and text messages included) exchanged with your landlord or tenant. Additionally, both landlords and tenants should understand that tenants will still be responsible for the rent that they are unable to pay on time. The eviction moratoriums do not forgive tenant’s missed rent payment. Finally, the requirements in the Orders and Ordinance speaking to notice and documentation are the minimum requirements. There is nothing from preventing a landlord or a tenant from engaging further with one another to try and come to mutual understandings, payment plans, lease addendums or the like and such options should almost always be considered.
Should you have questions or concerns about your rights or obligations, whether from a landlord or tenant’s perspective, an experienced real estate attorney can help you navigate these issues and the uncertainty that comes along with them.
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