30 Aug COVID RENT UPDATE
Margaret A.M. Heine
is the principal counsel at Heine Law Group in Fullerton, California. She is licensed in California and Washington and has authority to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of International Trade.
COVID RENT UPDATE
On August 12, 2021, the Supreme Court heard the case of Chrysafis v. Marks. This case was a request of New York landlords for relief from COVID related halts to evictions. The landlords argued that the September 2, 2020 CDC issued public health order against evictions as a public health concern. The CDC order is effective through October 3, 2021. The corresponding action by New York to put a moratorium on residential evictions is argued to be a violation of due process against the landlords as property owners. The New York law, COVID Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, was based on the CDC public health order, and provided that if a tenant said they had a financial hardship as a result of COVID, they could not be evicted. In short, the Supreme Court decision issued an injunction against the enforcement of the state mandate and would allow the landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent. The Court implied that the CDC may not be authorized or empowered to issue moratoriums or specials, when there is no declared state of emergency. New York State had specifically issued a statement that said “The COVID state of emergency is over.” It appears that any COVID related delay in payment of rent would need to be proven by the tenant, not simply accepted as fact.
California took similar actions as New York in protecting renters as a result of the Shelter in Place mandates and work closures due to COVID. Recent developments are extending protection to tenants. California’s actions could also be called into question on the same basis as the New York statute.
On June 25, 2021, Governor Newsom supported AB832, which extended the current eviction moratorium through September 30, 2021. The state received more than $5 million in federal rental assistance funds to help tenants and landlords. The bill keeps the rental assistance close by prioritizing the cities and counties which need the rental assistance the most.
COVID 19 Tenant Relief Act -AB832 extended the relief that was granted in 2020 under the Tenant, Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 and went into effect on June 28, 2021. So, landlords are stopped from filing for eviction for nonpayment of rent against tenants through September 30, 2021. In order to qualify under this section, the tenant must provide to their landlord a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress within 15 days of notice from their landlord. However, tenants were still required to pay at 25% of their rent to their landlords, and the 25% of the rent due must be paid by September 30, 2021—so, it is not a complete and full pass on postponing payment of the rent. These conditions were spelled out in COVID 19 Tenant Relief Act, SB 91. There were certain other conditions as well. It is important to note that the rental assistance funds are designed to pay 100% of the rent obligations to the landlord. This option should be explored and tenants should actively participate in a rental assistance program prior to the end of September.
The California Courts also issued instructions regarding protection for residential tenants through September 30, 2021. Evictions of residential tenants can only proceed if they are based on just cause. The Courts will not issue a summons or enter a judgment against a tenant unless the landlord can show that they attempted to get relief under the federal rental assistance program as well. This will occur from October 1, 2021 through March 30, 2022. There are presently two challenges to the State’s orders filed in federal court.
Protections are due to end soon, so, unless they are extended once again, it is unlikely that any further cases will be heard by the Supreme Court or the State Supreme Court as the cases would be “moot” as the eviction process would return and restore the rights of eviction back to the landlord. There are new court forms which were issued and updated. Be sure to check the court websites for the most current and up-to-date forms if you are either a landlord or a tenant.