COVID-19 California Eviction Moratoriums (Bans) and Tenant Protections

Learn about eviction moratoriums in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By , Attorney

Emergency COVID-19 measures rushed into place by Federal, state and local governments created a confusing patchwork of tenant protections. Now over two years into the Pandemic, many of these protections have expired. The main Federal eviction moratorium ended on 7/31/21, and California's eviction moratorium ended for most tenants on 3/31/22. Still, some tenant protections -- mostly local -- remain in place.

FEDERAL PROTECTIONS

Federal CDC Temporary Eviction Halt and Mortgage-Based Protections

On 9/4/20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rolled out several nationwide residential eviction bans. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the CDC lacked the authority to issue these types of orders. Government-backed mortgage buyers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (FHFA) also temporarily stopped some multifamily evictions. The mortgage-based eviction moratorium ended on September 30, 2021. Currently, no Federal eviction-restrictions remain.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a helpful webpage of resources for tenants.

CALIFORNIA STATE PROTECTIONS

California Tenant Relief and Rental Housing Recovery Acts

The State of California also enacted tenant protections. In September 2020 the California Legislature hastily passed the California COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (CA Relief Act) to stop landlords from evicting qualified residential tenants, and on 1/28/21 enacted Senate Bill No. 91 COVID-19 Relief: Tenancy and Federal Rental Assistance (SB 91), which beefed up tenant protections and added rental assistance. Effective 6/30/21 AB 832 (the "Rental Housing Recovery Act") provided money to reimburse landlords 100% of unpaid rent incurred by qualifying tenants.

Protections vary depending on when the past-due rent was due:

  • For rent that was due 3/ 1/20 -- 8/31/20: Tenants who provided a Declaration of COVID-19-Related Financial Distress to their landlord cannot be evicted for unpaid rent due between those dates;
  • For rent that was due 9/1/20 -- 9/30/21: Tenants who provided the above declaration AND paid at least 25% of the rent due during that period by 9/30/21 also cannot be evicted for unpaid rent due between those dates;
  • Tenants who owe past-due rent from 10/01/21 forward and did not submit an application for the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program ("Housing is Key") can be evicted.

    AB-2179 extension temporarily protects tenants who submitted applications for rental assistance from eviction:

    • Applications for Housing is Key closed on 3/31/22.
    • Tenants who applied for Housing is Key on or before 3/31/22 can't be evicted for non-payment while their application is pending.
    • Tenants who have been denied assistance can be evicted.
    • Tenants can also be evicted for other reasons like causing a nuisance, etc.
    • The extension only applies to rent due before 4/1/22. Tenants are expected to pay 100% of rent due from 4/1/22 going forward.
    • The extension ends on June 30, 2022.

      LOCAL EMERGENCY ORDINANCES (and commercial tenant protections)

      Although the statewide eviction moratorium no longer protects most tenants, local emergency ordinances still may.

      Early in the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom first allowed individual cities and counties to protect residential and commercial tenants suffering COVID-19 related financial hardships (3/16/20 Executive Order N-28-20) and then to extend those protections if they choose to do so. (6/30/20 Executive Order N-71-20 and 3/4/21 Executive Order N-03-21). Over 150 local entities quickly enacted ordinances banning either residential or commercial evictions, or both. Intended as short-term "stop-gap" measures, all of these local ordinance were created prior to the statewide protections, and most of them expired on 9/30/20 along with Executive Order N-71-20. Still, although the statewide moratorium was meant to replace the remaining local ordinances, roughly 40 local ordinances are still in effect:

      • Residential tenants in towns or counties with unexpired local tenant protection ordinances may be protected from eviction and/or rent increases.
      • Many remaining local emergency eviction moratorium ordinances also protect commercial tenants.

      Check the chart below to see whether your city or county enacted an emergency ordinance, if so whether it's still in effect, and what type of tenants it protects.

      If a Local Ordinance Exists:

      • Under most (but not all) local ordinances, you must have suffered a COVID-19 related substantial decrease in household or business income because of a layoff; reduction of work or business hours; decreasing demand; medical and childcare-related expenses; or from complying with any government response to COVID-19 (sheltering in place, etc.).
      • Prepare to prove your hardship. Most ordinances make tenants document COVID-19 financial difficulties with (for example) letters from an employer citing COVID-19 reduced work hours, termination, or other reductions; paycheck stubs and/or bank statements showing a post-outbreak pay cut; bills for out-of-pocket medical expenses; and/or documents showing the closure of a school or child care facility where a child would otherwise be during working hours.
      • Don't assume you are automatically protected. Almost all ordinances make you notify your landlord in writing that you can't pay rent - in many cases when or even before the rent is due. "In writing" generally includes emails or texts to your landlord or the landlord's representative when you have previously communicated via those methods. Ask for written confirmation that your landlord received your notification.
      • These ordinances are eviction moratoriums, not rent moratoriums. You are still responsible for unpaid rent, so try to negotiate a reasonable payment plan with your landlord.
      • Generally, landlords can still serve notices and file eviction actions. Most of these ordinances provide special defenses that tenants must raise.

      For All Tenants:

      Landlord-tenant law has become incredibly complex. If you've been served with legal documents, you must take action to avoid being evicted-in some cases as quickly as three days! Contact an attorney or a tenants' rights organization as soon as possible.

      CAUTION! This article and the ordinance chart below were last updated on 5/19/22, but this area of law is rapidly evolving. These local moratoriums change frequently, and many are contingent on states of emergency or related short-term authorizations .The material here can give you a broad idea of tenant protections - and protections apparently still in effect are listed in bold - but check your county and city government web pages and the actual ordinances/laws for the most recent information.

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