California’s New COVID-19 Protections for Tenants

By Octavio Velarde on September 18, 2020

On August 31, 2020, California passed the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1179.01 et seq). The Tenant Relief Act, generally, protects California tenants from being evicted for failure to pay rent from March 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 because of the pandemic.

Tenants cannot be evicted if they failed to pay rent between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 because of the pandemic.

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Starting September 1, 2020 until January 31, 2021 tenants may pay 25% of their rent by January 31, 2021.

Here is an example: Mr. Smith pays $1,000 a month in rent. He lost his job back in March because of the pandemic and now his savings are running low. Mr. Smith cannot afford to keep paying $1,000 a month in rent. Under the Tenant Relief Act, Mr. Smith can instead pay his landlord $1,250 by January 31, 2021.

Why $1250?
25% of $1,000 is $250. Mr. Smith wishes to pay $250 for September, October, November, December and January (5 months). Five months at $250 a month = $1250.

Mr. Smith can pay the $1250 at any time up until January 31, 2021. Mr. Smith may prefer to pay 
$250 every month or he may want to wait until the end of January to pay.

In order to be protected, you should give your landlord written notice that you cannot pay the full rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. California has released a form notice for tenants to use here: https://landlordtenant.dre.ca.gov/tenant/forms.html.

The landlord can require you to provide a new notice every month between September 2020 through January 2021. The landlord can also require you to provide proof of your loss of income if you are a “high income” tenant.

Also, until February 1, 2021, tenants cannot be evicted without “just cause.” That means that landlords are prohibited from ending your rental contract except for specific reasons including, among others, if the tenant is damaging the property, bothering neighbors, or is using the property to commit a crime. That means that landlords may not give 30-day or 60-day notices to terminate a tenancy for no reason.

While the Tenant Relief Act does protect tenants from eviction in some cases, it does not forgive or cancel your rent. Tenants remain responsible for the full amount of rent they owe under their lease from March 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. That unpaid rent becomes a debt that the landlord can collect against the tenant as “consumer debt.”

Fortunately, this kind of consumer debt can be cancelled in a bankruptcy. Many people may consider filing for bankruptcy if they are unable to catch up on the rent payments they missed because of the pandemic.

These are only some highlights from the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020, but if you would like to discuss how the Relief Act can help you specifically, please reach out to schedule a consultation with our office at 619.330.6870.

The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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