Unprecedented is putting it lightly.  New rules published on Monday, April 6, by the California Judicial Council go farther than expected to stay evictions and judicial foreclosures.  The new rules prevent any Court in California from issuing a summons in an unlawful detainer (eviction) case until ninety days after the state of emergency is lifted, or until these new rules are amended.  Courts also cannot default defendants during that period of time.

There is no official moratorium on non-judicial foreclosures at this time, but sources indicate that moving forward with non-judicial foreclosure during the state of emergency could lead to litigation and legal challenges when the courts reopen.

This video is for our residential landlords. Attorney Welsh-Levin answers common questions about the eviction moratorium in California. Hear about what we can and cannot do right now.

Posted by So Cal Realty Law on Friday, April 3, 2020

Some FAQ we’ve answered for residential landlords and tenants are:

Do tenants still have to pay rent?

The answer is “yes”.  The moratorium is only to stay litigation leading to judgments and lockouts against tenants.  Tenants still owe rent and landlords can still collect rent.  We encourage landlords to work with tenants and put any agreements you reach into writing.  Contact us if you need assistance negotiating or documenting your agreements.

What can we do right now?

We can still issue notices to tenants such as a 3-day notice to pay or quit, and we can prepare the unlawful detainer lawsuits.  We use an electronic filing system that interfaces with the court.  The e-filing system is still accepting filings, but the files will wait until the courts reopen.  Even when the courts reopen, they won’t be issuing summonses to serve tenants until ninety days after the state of emergency is lifted.

In the meantime, we can help landlords comply with other legal requirements recently created by AB 1482, the rent cap and good cause eviction statute.  Landlords must issue notices to tenants by June 1, 2020, notifying the tenants whether the property is exempt or not exempt from the new law.

Can a lease or other contract be terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The answer is “maybe.”  California law has a statutory “force majeure” provision that allows a party to break a contract due to “superhuman forces” or “operation of law”.  Right now, we appear to have both going on.  But many contracts have provisions that prevent parties from cancelling due to “force majeure”.  The first thing to do is to look for clauses in your contract that apply to termination.  Then, call an attorney to interpret and apply the language of the contract and the law of California.

Commercial landlord/tenant relationships are not subject to the statewide moratorium, but may be effected by local ordinances.  We reviewed each city in the County of San Diego.  Some cities who have enacted or are working on local ordinances include Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Santee.  Go to the city’s website to learn more. Some of the city websites contain lots of helpful links to information. Things are changing daily!

Shanna Welsh-Levin is a California Real Estate Attorney who assists Realtors®, investors, and homeowners with real estate sale transactions and litigation. She authored legislation that became the California short sale anti-deficiency statute, Cal. Code of Civil Procedure §580e. Her firm, So. Cal. Realty Law, resolves real estate disputes and protects real estate investments.  Services also include managing risk for real estate brokers and preventing future liability.