AB 2179—Yet Another Obstacle to Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent

AB 2179—Yet Another Obstacle to Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent

By: Kristin Goulet, Esq., D. Keith Dunnagan, Esq., and Keaton Turnipseed (3L)

April 19, 2022

As landlords were finally about to breathe a sigh of relief with the end of the last time period affected by COVID-19 protections, the notice requirements and eviction procedures originally enacted by the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act were extended when the California legislature passed AB 2179 on March 31, 2022. The extended requirements and procedures will be in effect until June 30, 2022. While it appears that the passage of AB 2179 will be applauded by tenants and bemoaned by landlords, the details of the new law and its effects still require a closer look to understand what exactly the new status quo is.

First, it is worth noting that the extensions afforded by AB 2179 only apply to evictions for failure to pay rent. Landlords who move forward with an eviction based on other grounds are not affected in any way, that is assuming another of California’s score of tenant protection laws does not apply. For example, the 2019 Tenant Protection Act.

Second, the only evictions that are stayed by AB 2179 are those where rental assistance is pending. This makes some sense; the idea is that tenants should not be punished for the State’s inability to effectively process the flood of applications it has received in a timely manner. Assemblymember Tim Grayson, who wrote AB 2179, said “we’re not going to allow for Californians to suffer, to lose their homes or even their income because of application processing times.”

As such, to evict based on a failure to pay rent for any time period within March 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, all notice and procedure requirements must have been abided. Additionally, evictions based on a failure to pay rent for the time period of October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022 have the extra requirement of a rental assistance application being filled out by the landlord. This six-month period from October 2021 through March 2022 is perhaps the most affected by the passing of AB 2179—if landlords find themselves in a situation where rent has not been paid and no application has been filed, they may be out of luck in evicting tenants for nonpayment of during that six-month period.

But landlords are not wholly without recourse. If an application has been completed and denied by the applicable housing authority, the landlord may move forward with an eviction based on a failure to pay rent. Similarly, if a tenant refuses to cooperate in the rental assistance application process, the landlord may also move forward with an eviction. With that said, the landlord will likely bear the burden of proof in showing it is the tenant who has refused to cooperate or has failed to apply correctly. This may be a tall order as housing authorities are heavily inundated with applications and slow to respond to inquiries and requests for documents. Not to mention, California goes above and beyond in protecting tenants’ rights, and landlords seeking eviction will likely come under more intense scrutiny in court.

Remarkably, AB 2179 does not provide a means for collecting rent owed during October 1, 2021 through March 1, 2022, where no application has been filed. Previous legislation, such as AB 832, directed landlords to small claims court to collect rent from protected periods. However, no such instruction can be found in AB 2179. As such, this debt is, at least as the law stands, in limbo, with no clear path for landlords to recover the money they are owed.

Third, AB 2179 will not stay evictions for failure to pay rent where the tenant has failed to pay rent for April 1, 2022 and forward, regardless of whether there is a rental assistance application pending or not. Thus, a landlord may move forward with an eviction based on failure to pay April rent immediately, provided that the landlord complied with the notice periods of Civil Code section 798.56(e). Additionally, AB 2179 also does not grant additional time to apply for rental assistance, so no new applications will have been accepted after Thursday, March 31, 2022. Thus, without getting into California’s other landlord-tenant laws, it would appear that a landlord can now move forward on a three-day notice to pay or quit immediately upon the notice expiring. This may be an attractive option for landlords who would like to recover possession of their property while waiting on substantial sums of money to be disbursed by the applicable housing authorities.

Lastly, one of the more interesting provisions in AB 2179 is the explicit preemption of some local ordinances, resolutions, regulations, or administrative actions until June 30, 2022. Many local jurisdictions, including Sacramento and Los Angeles counties, have passed their own, oftentimes more stringent, eviction moratoriums, which may now have been rendered ineffective by AB 2179. However, landlords should exercise due diligence and ascertain whether the local laws in their jurisdiction have in fact been affected by AB 2179.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.

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