On June 28, 2021 Governor Newsom signed legislation to extend California’s eviction moratorium through September 20, 2021. Assembly Bill 832 extends existing law prohibiting residential tenants from being evicted for failure to pay rent due to a COVID-19-related hardship between March 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021. Residential tenants are still required to provide a Declaration of COVID-19-Related Financial Distress and pay at least 25 percent of past due rent by Sept. 30 to avoid eviction.

How long are the COVID protections for renters in effect under the new bill?

Eviction protections have been extended through September 30, 2021.  Tenants who have not paid rent for any month between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 who provide a signed declaration of COVID-related financial hardship to their landlord, cannot be evicted before September 30, 2021.

Do the protections for renters apply to commercial tenancies as well?

No.  The protections for renters have been extended for residential tenancies but not for commercial tenancies.

What forms are required to avoid eviction?

A Declaration of COVID-19-Related Financial Distress should be used by tenants who are unable to pay rent due to financial distress arising from and/or related to COVID-19. Landlords may provide the form to tenants,  and tenants must sign and return it to the landlord within 15 business days in order to avoid eviction for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19-related financial distress. The form is available at https://housing.ca.gov/tenant/forms.html.

Can Landlords ask for proof of COVID hardship for inability to pay rent?

No, unless the tenant is a high-income earner, and the landlord already has proof of this.  If the landlord has proof on file that the household makes at least 130% of the median income for the county where the rental property is located, then the landlord may demand documentation supporting the claim of COVID-related financial distress.  In any other circumstance, landlords may not demand additional documentation and must accept the signed declaration from the tenant as proof of hardship.

When can evictions for nonpayment of rent begin?

Landlords can begin evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent (even if they have submitted a declaration of COVID-related financial hardship) starting October 1, 2021.

Can a landlord evict a tenant for other reasons besides non-payment of rent?

Yes, a landlord can evict a tenant for at-fault just cause (such as breach of a material term of the lease, nuisance, committing waste, or criminal activity) as long as the cause is not simply a pretext for retaliating against the tenant for non-payment of rent.  No-fault terminations remain rather difficult during this period.

Are there any new notices that landlords should be aware of?

There is a new mandatory notice that landlords must deliver to all tenants who have missed any rental payment since March 1, 2020.  The notice explains the new changes in protections for renters and must be delivered on or before July 30, 2021.  There is also a new 15-day notice to pay or quit that needs to be included with every demand for payment of rent served after July 1, 2021.

Is there rental assistance for tenants who cannot afford to make their rental payments?

Yes.  Tenants who earn 80% or less of the area median income are eligible for rental assistance at housingiskey.com.  Either landlords or tenants can begin the application process.  The rental assistance program will reimburse landlords for 100% of unpaid back rent, and may help tenants with future rent payments as well.

Are there protections for tenants who don’t qualify for rental assistance?

Tenants who do not qualify for rental assistance (because they earn more than the 80% area median income threshold) must pay 25% of the total outstanding rent that came due during the “Transition Time Period” (September 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021) by September 30, 2021.  If they pay this 25%, then the landlord may not evict them for the other 75%.  The landlord can, however, bring an action to collect unpaid rent beginning November 1, 2021.

How do landlords recover unpaid back rent?

Landlords may begin filing claims for unpaid back rent starting November 1, 2021, by either filing in small claims court, or bringing a civil suit.  However, the court has limited the amount that a landlord can recover in attorney’s fees in a civil suit to $500 if the matter is uncontested and $1000 if the matter is contested.  Before filing a claim for unpaid rents, landlords must first apply for rental assistance through the governmental program at housingiskey.com.  In order for a court to issue a summons and complaint, the landlord must first file a statement verifying that the landlord completed an application for rental assistance to cover the rental debt demanded but the application was denied, as well as a copy of the final decision from the rental assistance program denying the rental assistance.

Do landlords still need to serve 15-day notices to pay or quit?

Yes, landlords must continue to deliver 15-day notices to pay or quit.  Beginning October 1, 2021, the 15-day notice will no longer be in effect, and landlords can go back to the normal 3-day notices.

To view the text of AB 832, visit  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB832

For more information on rental assistance, visit https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/