Residential Evictions in California - January 2021 Update for Landlords and Tenants
It is no understatement that residential tenancies and evictions in California have become more complex over the past year. What used to be more straightforward notice requirements for both tenants and landlords, affording both sides a general understanding of their rights and obligations to each other, has become complex under California’s recent “just cause” eviction laws and various state and federal guidance responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We previously wrote about the rent cap and just cause eviction law (“AB 1482”); which is temporarily superseded by the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (“AB 3088”) and the federal eviction moratorium order issued by the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC Order").
Under AB 3088, all residential properties, now and through February 1, 2021, are subject generally to the “just cause” eviction rules set forth under AB-1482. This has the effect of pumping the brakes on most residential evictions, including tenancies for less than 12 months, even though many such tenancies would otherwise be exempt from AB 1482.
To recap, there are 15 exemptions to “just cause” under AB 1482, which include qualifying property separately alienable from title (such as single-family homes), owner occupancy, some owner-occupied single family dwelling arrangements, removal from the rental market, and substantial remodeling. These exemptions are no longer available to residential landlords under AB-3088.
Under AB-1482, residential tenancies fall into two categories, “No Fault” terminations, and “At Fault” termination of tenancy. What follows is an explanation of how AB-3088 has superseded AB 1482 until January 31, 2021.
“No fault” termination of tenancy is allowed when the tenant has not breached the lease and requires that the landlord pay one month’s rent in relocation assistance or grant the tenant a rent waiver. Under AB 3088, the “no fault” reasons are severely restricted until January 31, 2021 (or later, if the statute is extended) to the following circumstances: (1) substantial remodeling only where it is necessary to maintain compliance required by law governing habitability, or (2) where an owner of a single-family property or condo is in contract to sell to a buyer who will occupy the property. Remember that if a “just cause” reason applies, then under AB 1482, the Landlord must provide notice and relocation assistance.
“At Fault” termination may be based on the following: (1) non-payment of rent, (2) material violations of the lease, (3) the tenant causes a nuisance or engages in criminal/unlawful activity, (4) failing to allow the owner access to the property, and (5) failing to sign an extension at the end of a lease term.
With the exception of default on rent, the “at fault” termination reasons are still appear to be valid grounds for eviction. However, landlords should proceed with caution if the “at-fault” reason is based in part or in whole on non-payment of rent. AB-3088 provides protection to tenants where the nonpayment of rent is based on a COVID-19 hardship, and the CDC Order may be even broader. In addition, local county and city orders may provide additional protections and notice requirements between parties before any eviction may proceed. If a local just cause eviction ordinance is in effect, it may supersede the AB 1482 protections. For these reasons, landlords and tenants should carefully check their local laws.
Last, the CDC Order may provide possibly broader rights to a tenant to remain in a property even if the landlord would have a right to terminate a tenancy under the "no-fault" eviction rules of AB 1482, so long as the tenant is able to meet the criteria and comply with the order. The criteria concerns halting evictions where the tenant is in default on rent the period of September 4, 2020 through January 31, 2021. A tenant can be a “covered person” if they meet the criteria set forth in the CDC Order, and complete a declaration that they meet income qualifications (individual at or below $99k, joint at or below $198k), unable to pay due to financial hardship, efforts to timely pay as much as they can, and to avail themselves of public assistance programs. The tenant must sign and deliver the CDC hardship declaration form to the landlord to gain protection under the CDC Order. The CDC Order has been extended to remain in effect until January 31, 2021. For more information on the CDC order and declaration form, see:
In sum, if one of the two exceptions to just cause does not apply, or the basis for the eviction is other than material violations of the lease or criminal activity/nuisance, a landlord may not be able to proceed with evicting of a residential tenant. If the landlord proceeds with an eviction in violation of the current statutes and orders, they may be subject to severe criminal and civil penalties. Courts have not uniformly applied the law for evictions; some judges are taking the position, even now, that all residential eviction are subject to moratorium. For these reasons, landlords should speak with an attorney before proceeding with an eviction, and tenants faced with a potential eviction should seek legal assistance right away.
This article is not intended to be legal advice, but is general information only, and has been updated as of January 9, 2021. The law in this area is complex and changing. If you need assistance with a residential eviction, please contact an attorney to discuss your specific issue. Crystal Center is a civil attorney in Placerville and handles landlord-tenant issues, among other civil matters, throughout Northern California.