On March 27, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a statewide executive order many have called an eviction moratorium. Calling the order a moratorium is misleading because Newsom’s order does not prohibit or delay the filing of unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuits. Once county courthouses reopen a flood of eviction suits are anticipated to remove tenants who have not paid their rent since March.
Here are what landlords need to know about the so-called statewide eviction moratorium:
Nothing Prohibits Landlords from Serving Notices to Pay or Quit, or the Filing of an Eviction Lawsuit
Before filing an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent, a landlord generally provides the tenant with a Notice to Pay or Quit. The notice documents the total amount of money owed and allows the tenant to repay the past due rent, or surrender the property to the landlord. Nothing in the executive order prohibits service of these notices.
The Governor’s order also does not prohibit the filing of an eviction lawsuit. Filing lawsuit has been essentially impossible given the courthouses are closed to the public, but that will change when they reopen. Instead, the executive order’s focus is on when tenants are served with the lawsuit.
If a Tenant is Served with an Eviction Lawsuit, They May Have 60 Extra Days to Respond
Newsom’s executive order may extend the deadline for a tenant to respond to an eviction lawsuit by 60 additional days. To qualify, the tenant must be served with the eviction lawsuit between March 27th and May 31, 2020, and meet the criteria below:
To qualify for the additional 60 days to respond, the tenant must establish:
- They paid rent to the landlord before March 27, 2020;
- They notified the landlord in writing, no later than 7 days after their rent was due, they could not pay their rent due to COVID-19. Reasons include, but are not limited to:
- The tenant could not work because they had COVID-19, were suspected to have COVID-19, or cared for a family member with COVID-19;
- The tenant was laid-off, had their work hours reduced, or otherwise had an income reduction due to COVID-19; or
- The tenant missed work to care for a child whose school was closed in response to COVID-19; and
- The tenant has verifiable documentation explaining their changed financial circumstances.
Enforcement of Eviction Judgments are Stayed
If a residential tenant can establish they meet the above factors, no writ (Court Order) may be enforced by law enforcement to remove a tenant for nonpayment of rent.
Executive Order Expires on May 31, 2020
The executive order specifically expires on May 31, 2020. All protections afforded by the executive order will elapse at the end of May, unless it is extended.
Nothing Changes the Amount of Rent Owed
The order encourages all tenants who can make monthly payments of rent to do so. Moreover, the executive order states nothing shall relieve a tenant of liability for unpaid rent. Even though it may take longer to evict a nonpaying tenant, the money is still owed to the landlord.
Localities May Adopt Additional Restrictions
Governor Newsom issued other executive orders allowing cities and counties to enact more restrictions or prohibiting commercial or residential eviction. While Newsom’s statewide moratorium is the overarching rule, nothing prohibits localities from being more restrictive. Everyone should be familiar with the rules and regulations imposed by the cities and counties to commence and enforce evictions before taking any eviction action.
You can read the full text of the executive order here.
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