State Passes AB 3088 Providing COVID Related Eviction Relief

State Passes AB 3088 Providing COVID Related Eviction Relief

By: Tanner Puryear, Esq.

September 3, 2020


On Tuesday the Governor signed AB 3088 into law, which establishes a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19 financial hardship until January 31, 2021.

Under this new legislation, tenants who are able to demonstrate hardship as a result of the pandemic are only required to pay 25% of their rent from September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. If tenants are unable to pay this 25% the landlord may proceed with filing for an eviction beginning February 1, 2021.

The applicability of the moratorium is subject to proof that the tenant is unable to pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a former version of the bill would have allowed tenants to file an attestation that they were experiencing a pandemic-caused financial hardship, the law would now require that the tenant swear under penalty of perjury that they are enduring hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, if a tenant earns 130% of a county’s area median income or higher, the owner of the property can ask for proof that the tenant is suffering from financial hardship due to COVID-19, such as a wage-reduction notice from an employer, or notice of a layoff.

This legislation effectively ends the uncertainty as to moratoriums placed on evictions by the individual counties throughout the state. Eviction moratoriums previously passed by counties and cities will be “grandfathered” in, however they will no longer be allowed to pass any extensions regarding non-payment of rent. If a local ordinance gives tenants a period in which to pay off an unpaid rental balance, that period must begin at least by March 1, 2021 and must end no later than March 31, 2022.

Unfortunately, this bill does not provide for protection for property owners who may be relying on the rental income to pay their mortgage. Mortgage forbearance was not included in AB 3088, and property owners are not permitted to sue tenants for unpaid COVID-19 rental debt (other than the debt accrued from September through January as mentioned above) until March 1, 2021.

In an effort to mitigate costs for property owners who have to proceed with eviction cases, this new legislation temporarily expands the jurisdiction of small claims court (which removes the burden and expense of attorney involvement) to allow a property owner to collect rent from their tenant even if the amount sought exceeds the small claims court limits.

However, presumably recognizing the potential hardships this new legislation may cause, the bill also increases penalties for illegal lockouts and intimidation of tenants. As the courts remain closed and the property owners remain helpless as to remedies for non-payment, there have been reports that landlords are increasingly turning toward “self-help,” such as simply locking out their tenants from the premises. In an effort to curtail illegal evictions the legislature has decided to increase the penalties for these types of “self-help” measures.

In summation, this new legislation provides for the protection of tenants and is a potential nightmare for landlords who are relying on the rental income to pay their mortgage, as evictions are once again prohibited for inability to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. The silver lining is that beginning on October 5, 2020, landlords will once again be allowed to proceed with eviction cases for nonpayment of rent or other charges if the tenant has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to do so however, the landlord must give a 15 business-day notice to the tenant to either pay the demanded amount, vacate the premises, or return a declaration to the landlord, under penalty of perjury, that they have suffered financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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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