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Newsom signs statewide COVID-19 tenant and landlord protection legislation

Extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights

OW Staff Writer | 9/4/2020, midnight

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed legislation to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. These protections apply to tenants who declare an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason.

“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California – but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction,” said Newsom. “This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic.

“California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market. We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”

Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 and Aug. 31, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between Sept. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.

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; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.

Additional legal and financial protections for tenants include:

 • Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide tenant additional time to respond to landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.

• Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if rental agreement was negotiated in a different language.

• Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.

• Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.

• Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021.

• Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.

Existing local ordinances can generally remain in place until they expire and future local action cannot undermine this Act’s framework. Nothing in the legislation affects a local jurisdiction’s ability to adopt an ordinance that requires just cause, provided it does not affect rental payments before Jan. 31, 2021.

“No one should lose their home due to this public health crisis—and while cities like Los Angeles have strong tenant protections in place, there is no substitute for a clear, statewide framework that keeps hard-hit Californians under a roof,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “With the state legislature’s action and Governor Newsom’s signature, tenants and landlords can rest easier tonight, but the fight continues for every dollar in federal assistance to help struggling families survive the choppy waters of COVID-19 and navigate the economic destruction left in its wake.”