CSAC Bulletin Article

COVID-19 Tenant and Landlord Protection Bill Signed

September 3, 2020

The Legislature concluded the second year of the 2019-20 legislative session earlier this week. One of the most noteworthy housing bills that passed both the Senate and Assembly on the last night of session was AB 3088 (Chiu), a COVID-related tenant and landlord protection measure that was quickly signed by the Governor after it arrived at his desk that same night.

A summary of the key provisions of AB 3088 from the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency is available here. The Governor announced the launch of the “Housing is Key” campaign aimed at connecting renters and landlords experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19 with helpful information and resources. The campaign will be run by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH) and kicks off with a new website and social media ads targeting vulnerable communities.

AB 3088 imposes temporary measures to help avoid evictions and foreclosures due to the impacts of COVID-19. It establishes a legal framework limiting, until January 31, 2021, evictions if a tenant falls behind on rent or other payment obligations as a result of a financial hardship caused by the pandemic. Specifically, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19-related hardship accrued between March 4 and August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship, under penalty of perjury, consistent with the legislation’s timeframes. For a COVID-19 related hardship between September 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction after February 1, 2021 for the unpaid rent.

According to the Administration’s summary of the bill, tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.

The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords. The bill provides landlords with mortgages on properties with one-to-four residential units a right to a written explanation for when they are denied forbearance and provide a borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.

The bill also temporarily limits the ability of local governments to enact or expand local eviction protections effective before February 1, 2021. Counties that have adopted local limitations on eviction protections consistent with the Governor’s Executive Orders, or that may consider adopting or amending any such local measure should carefully review the limitations included in Section 20 of AB 3088.

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