Governor Imposes Moratorium on Residential Evictions Through May 31

by on March 27, 2020

posted in Landlord-Tenant,

This afternoon, Governor Newsom issued an executive order imposing a moratorium on residential evictions through May 31, 2020.  The order was issued to protect residential tenants from evictions while stay-at-home (or “shelter in place”) orders are in place due to the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

Many cities have been imposing moratoria on evictions following a previous executive order recognizing their rights to do so.  For those cities that are still considering adoption, the following are the key features of the Governor’s latest order:

  • It applies only to residential leases. The executive order leaves in place the ability of commercial landlords to seek and enforce evictions of commercial tenants.
  • The moratorium applies only to evictions for failure to pay rent. Evictions for other reasons, such as breaches of non-monetary lease terms, are still allowed.
  • To qualify for the moratorium, tenants must advise their landlords before their rent is due, or no later than 7 days after the due date, that they are unable to pay all or a portion of their rent. Their failure to pay must be for “reasons related to COVID-19,” which can include (1) inability to work because they or a family member they care for are suspected or confirmed to have a COVID-19 illness; (2) they are laid off from or lose hours at work due to the emergency; or (3) they need to miss hours from work to care for a child who cannot attend schools closed in response to COVID-19.
  • Technically, the moratorium does not stop landlords from filing eviction lawsuits, known as “unlawful detainer” actions.  Tenants are instead given an extra 60 days beyond the usual 5 days they have to file answers in these proceedings.  Thus, the 60-day period is more accurately described as a “stay” of the lawsuits than a moratorium.
  • The moratorium also applies to the enforcement of writs of possession, which are the legal orders given to sheriff departments to actually remove tenants from their dwelling units.

This latest executive order states that it supersedes the prior executive order on the subject of evictions “to the extent there is an conflict” with that order.  This language is important as it, in our opinion, keeps intact the language of the prior order that allows cities to impose their own eviction moratoria.  Thus, cities that have already adopted eviction moratoria, or those that wish to adopt their own moratoria, may still adopt or enforce their own measures.

As a practical matter, many landlords would find it difficult, if not impossible, to seek evictions because of the closures of most state courts.  But to the extent these obstacles could be navigated, today’s executive order provides protection to residential tenants during the government-imposed stay-at-home periods.

tags: COVID-19, Evictions, Executive Order, Moratorium,

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