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New State Eviction Moratorium Sets Guidelines Through January
 

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By Jorge Casuso

September 2, 2020 -- Under a law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, California renters are protected from eviction through January 31, as long as they pay at least 25 percent of their rent and show financial hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

The law -- which only applies to residential evictions for non-payment of rent -- went into effect immediately and works in conjunction with Santa Monica's eviction moratorium, which lasts through September 30, City officials said.

“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California —- but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction,” Newsom said in a statement.

“This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic.”

Under the statewide moratorium, a tenant has 15 business days, instead of three, to pay or provide a declaration of hardship in response to a notice to pay or quit.

Tenants who show hardship within the notice period cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent between March 1 and August 31, according to the law.

For rents due between September 1 and January 31 of next year, tenants who fail to pay cannot be evicted if the meet the notice requirements and pay 25 percent of the missed rent payments for that period by January 31.

Santa Monica's moratorium offers stronger tenant protections for those who fail to pay their September rent, City officials said.

"Whether or not you pay 25 percent of your September rent by January 31, 2021, the protections of the City’s moratorium will still apply to that September rent," said Chief Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh.

"If you meet the requirements of the City’s moratorium, you will have until September 30, 2021 to pay that September rent, and cannot be evicted for nonpayment until after that date," Suh said.

Tenants can be evicted starting October 5 if they fail to return a COVID-19 related hardship declaration to the landlord, according to an analysis of the law by the California Apartment Association (CAA).

Tenants who comply with the law owe the landlord "for any remaining unpaid rent due between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 "as a form of consumer debt," the CAA analysis states.

"Small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts," according to the analysis. "Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021."

The law adds a new penalty ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 for landlords who fail to go through the required court eviction process.

The law -- which sunsets on February 1 of next year -- applies to all residential rental tenants and mobile home residents, including single-family home and Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) rentals, the CAA said.

California's law was signed as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium through December 31.

The moratorium, which covers an estimated 40 million people, defers to states with stronger tenant protections.

The order came after a previous executive order from President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to determine if an eviction moratorium was needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria -- like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing -- can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC’s unpublished order stated.


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