On April 6, 2020, the California Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the California Courts, approved and adopted emergency rules regarding evictions. Although Governor Newsom and cities such as Los Angeles had previously enacted orders, these new rules supersede existing laws regarding the filing of unlawful detainer actions.

Under the new California Rules of Court, eviction cannot be currently filed, other than those necessary to protect public health and safety. This will continue until ninety days after the state of emergency is lifted. The rules apply to all courts and all eviction cases in the State of California, whether they are based on nonpayment of rent or other grounds.

“[We are] trying our best to preserve rights and ultimately preserve lives,” Chief Justice Tany G. Cantil-Sakauye said. “We are at this point truly with no guidance in either history, law or precedent. And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation.”

Unfortunately, the Chief Justice decided to preserve the rights of tenants only. All landlords have been thrown under the bus. The rule changes include the following:

Issuance of a Summons:

A court may not issue a summons on a complaint for unlawful detainer unless the court finds, in its discretion and on the record, that the action is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Entry of Default:

A court may not enter a default or a default Judgment for restitution in an unlawful detainer action for failure of defendant to appear unless the court finds both of the following: The action is necessary to protect public health and safety, and the defendant has not appeared in the action within the time provided by law, including by any applicable executive order.

Time for Trial:

If a defendant has appeared in the action, the court may not set a trial date earlier than 60 days after a request for trial is made unless the court finds that an earlier trial date is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Any trial set in an unlawful detainer proceeding as of April 6, 2020 must be continued at least 60 day from the initial date of trial.

Sunset of Rule:

This rule will remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.

The following are suggestions for landlords whose tenants who have failed to pay the rent:

  1. Start a dialog with your tenant;
  2. If they refuse to discuss their situation, or their failure to pay is unrelated to the pandemic, you should  

    commence a small claims action or a civil suit for money and ejectment; 

  1. Tenants should be informed that there is no rent forgiveness. Rent is only deferred; and
  2. For those tenants who have legitimate issues, attempt to enter into a deferred rent payment agreement. 

How to Handle New Applicants

Under certain instance a tenant can attempt to defer rent payments based on a financial inability to pay based on COVID-19. This has caused concern in some of my clients who are now reluctant to lease out their units. They fear that the tenant will immediately invoke this protection. I am currently representing a client who just leased a large home in Beverly Hills. The monthly rent is $27,500. On the second month, the tenants informed my client that due to the COVID-19 epidemic, they will not be paying the rent. 

My advice, in general, would be to continue to lease your units. You should screen your applicants more closely and consider the type of work that they do. If you believe that your tenant’s industry is subject to closure, I would avoid that applicant. 

Terminating a Month-to-Month Tenancy in the City of San Diego

It should be noted that a month-to-month tenancy cannot be terminated in the City of San Diego if it is based on a no-fault eviction. This would include service of a 30/60 Day Notice to Quit or termination of a fixed term lease. This provision was concealed in Ordinance 21177 which was passed on March 25, 2020. If you have previously served a Notice to Quit, you will be barred from filing or continuing to prosecute any unlawful detainer based on a no-fault eviction. 

 

Dennis Block, of Dennis P. Block & Associates can be reached for information on landlord/tenant law or evictions at any of the following offices:  Los Angeles: 323.938.2868, Encino: 818.986.3147, Inglewood: 310.673.2996, Long Beach:  310.434.5000, Ventura: 805.653.7264, Pasadena: 626.798.1014, Orange: 714.634.8232, San Diego: 619.481.5423 or by visiting www.evict123.com. Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dennisblock or text him at (818) 570-1557.  “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.