Becerra Issues Updated Alert for Tenants Affected by COVID-19
Following the Judicial Council of California’s emergency meeting, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued updated guidance to California tenants, encouraging them to learn about their rights if they will not be able to pay their full rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General encourages tenants to learn about their rights under the state Judicial Council’s April 6 emergency eviction rule, which expanded the statewide protections previously put in place by Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order at the end of March.
“The statewide stay-at-home order and critical social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in many tenants being out of work and in jeopardy of losing their homes,” said Attorney General Becerra. “I urge families who are facing an inability to pay their rent due to COVID-19 to take control of their rights under the Judicial Council’s emergency eviction rule and the Governor’s executive order. Although neither of these measures forgives payment of rent, they will prevent most evictions from going forward during the ongoing public health emergency.”
The Attorney General alerts all tenants of the following aspects of the statewide rules currently in place:
- Tenants still owe rent; if you can afford to pay your rent, you should.
- If you cannot pay all of your rent, you should be aware that your landlord can still file an eviction case against you, but the case will not proceed until at least 90 days following the end of the state of emergency.
- Local measures may offer additional protection, since they remain in effect following the Governor’s executive order. Research local eviction moratoriums that may apply in your area.
Facts for Tenants Unable to Pay Rent Due to COVID-19
Neither the recent Judicial Council’s emergency eviction rule nor the Governor’s order stops landlords from filing eviction cases. But, during the ongoing state of emergency and for 90 days after it is lifted, the Judicial Council rule prevents new eviction cases from proceeding, except where a court determines that eviction is necessary to protect public health and safety. Specifically, the Judicial Council’s rule prevents courts from issuing a summons, which is a document landlords need to serve on tenants in order to start the clock on the tenant’s time to respond. Courts will also not enter judgment against tenants for failure to appear. Additionally, eviction trials in existing cases will be delayed for at least 60 days.
Finally, under the Governor’s executive order, until May 31, 2020, qualifying tenants who retain documentation to prove their inability to pay rent and timely notify their landlords that they cannot do so are protected against lockout by the sheriff.
Additional Resources for Tenants
Although almost all evictions will be delayed through the state of emergency and for 90 days afterward, tenants should still be prepared to take action in the event that their landlord files an eviction case. Affected tenants should consult with legal aid or courthouse self-help clinics.
Many cities and counties have also taken action to help tenants during the COVID-19. In some cases, the local actions may provide tenants with greater protections than the Governor’s executive order. These local actions remain in effect after the executive order, so tenants should check to see what protections apply where they live. Contact your local city or county website for further information on protections and legal resources in your area.
Tenants who receive an eviction notice or lawsuit and need legal guidance should contact their local legal aid organization, which they can find at https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Need-Legal-Help/Free-Legal-Help.
The Judicial Council’s full emergency eviction rule is available here. The Governor’s full executive order is available here.