The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the “normal” pace of life in Southern California, elsewhere in the state, and across the country. Few people have avoided the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords are finding themselves in particularly challenging situations as a result of the mandates handed down by the state of California and local units of government that are directly impacting the operation of businesses of different types. These include directives issued by the state of California and local governments in cities like Los Angeles directed at providing tenants with added protection if they fail to pay their rent.

As with so many matters in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation associated with what landlords can and cannot do in regard to pursuing eviction proceedings against tenants. We present vital information for landlords about the state of affairs regarding evictions of all types at this time, including evictions for nonpayment of rent. 

History of Expanded Tenant Protections

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many California landlords already felt as if they were somewhat under siege. Over the course of the past several years, on the state level and in more than a few cities across California, elected officials have taken steps to buttress what many already believed were strong tenant protections. A reasonable argument can be made that these pro-tenant changes in laws, regulations, and ordinances have proved a disservice to landlords in a number of different ways. 

State of California Restrictions on Specific Types of Evictions During COVID-19 Pandemic

As with a number of matters associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there remains a notable degree of confusion over what Governor Gavin Newsome set forth in his executive order regarding residential evictions in the state of California. A large swath of tenants and even more than a few landlords believe that the Governor’s executive order placed a moratorium on all types of evictions in the state. 

The fact is that the Governor did not take such a wide-ranging step when it comes to residential landlords and tenants and evictions. Rather, the executive order only applies to evictions for nonpayment of rent. No other type of eviction is impacted by the executive order. 

The executive order doesn’t give a tenant the right to not pay rent. Rather, if a tenant can’t pay rent for one of the reasons set forth in a moment, a landlord cannot bring an eviction action during the coming 60 days. Unless the Governor adjusts the executive order and adds additional time, a tenant will not only be in arrears if rent has not been paid but a landlord can proceed with an eviction lawsuit at that point in time. 

As mentioned, in order to qualify for this 60-day break in being subjected to an eviction proceeding in California, a tenant must demonstrate the following:

  • Rent was owed after March 26, 2020 (the day of the Governor’s executive order).
  • Tenant sent a written notice to the landlord within seven days of the rent due date advising that the tenant couldn’t pay rent according to the lease because of an issue related to COVID-19.
  • Examples of justifiable issues related to COVID-19 include personal sickness or a sick family member, loss of job or reduction in work hours and income, missing work because of childcare related matters, and similar issues. 
  • Within the 60-day time period, a tenant must provide documentation supporting the reason used for delaying rent payment. 

City of Los Angeles Restrictions on Specific Types of Evictions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Los Angeles has a similar eviction lawsuit pause found in an emergency order issued by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The pause on eviction lawsuits begins for tenants that had rent due after March 15, 2020 (the day of the emergency order). The failure to pay rent must be the result of a matter associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The examples of reasons set forth a moment ago in regard to the Governor’s executive order are akin to what is permitted in Los Angeles. 

At the present time, the eviction lawsuit pause is slated to last 60 days. Unlike the Governor’s executive order, a tenant has six months from the time the COVID-19 emergency is deemed to have ended to pay accrued and unpaid rent. 

Informal Agreement Between Landlord and Tenant

One step that a landlord can take as a means of avoiding more significant issues regarding rent payments from tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic (and in its aftermath) is to open the door to dialogue with renters. Because this is a challenging time on many levels, you may want to try to work with tenants at least to some degree. 

Considering that tenants have been granted some leeway to defer making monthly rent payments, one way to avoid that type of situation is to work out a different type of agreement with individual tenants as needed. You could work out a temporary change in the rent due date. For example, you might consider a payment plan in which a tenant pays part of rent at the beginning of the month and the balance at about mid-month.