In 20 days, the rent is due. So now, what are you going to do?
If the COVID-19 pandemic has left you struggling to pay your rent, there now are several eviction moratorium regulations you might be able to take advantage of. -However, each is somewhat different and, taken all together, they are somewhat confusing. For example, several seem to contradict, or overrule, the Sept. 30 expiration date of West Hollywood’s eviction moratorium (and 12-month period the city has granted renters to pay their past due rent.)
Here are the recently announced federal, state, and county eviction moratorium measures:
On the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control has issued an order proclaiming a nationwide residential eviction moratorium that will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2020. The CDC says such evictions are a public health issue because those who lose their homes might end up in crowded shelters at a time when social distancing is essential to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
But that moratorium doesn’t apply to everyone. It only covers households with a 2020 income of $198,000 or less for couples filing joint tax returns, or $99,000 for individuals.
The CDC order does not cancel or make the landlord forgive what you owe. And it doesn’t override the provisions of a lease that might require you to eventually pay a penalty or interest on the unpaid rent. You will be required to pay the entire amount of back rent that you owe, including any penalties or interest, upon the expiration of the eviction moratorium on Dec. 31.
To apply for the CDC eviction moratorium, you must fill out a form, which can be downloaded here, and give a copy of it to your landlord. The form asks that you confirm that you have applied for any government assistance that might be available. Such assistance is available through programs funded by the City of West Hollywood, which can be accessed on the city’s website.
To be on the safe side, a tenant should both email and send a hard copy of the form via certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service or UPS, which means you will get notification that your landlord has signed a document confirming receipt of the form. You also should take a picture of the signed declaration alongside the addressed envelope.
The CDC eviction moratorium doesn’t apply to residents of states that have their own residential eviction moratoriums that are judged to provide the same, or better, public health protection than the CDC moratorium provides. That may raise questions about whether the State of California’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium or the CDC’s moratorium applies in certain situations.
State of California Moratorium
On Aug. 31, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 3088. Under that law, no residential tenant can be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021 as a result of rent not paid between March 4 and Aug. 31 because of a COVID-19 related hardship. That is known as the “protected time period.” However, by Jan. 31, 2021, to avoid being evicted a tenant must have paid at least 25% of the rent due from Sept. 1, 2020, to that date, which is known as the “transition time period.” When the eviction moratorium expires, a tenant will be required to pay all the past due rent.
Under the state law, a landlord can give a tenant a notice to pay or “quit” (aka an eviction notice) for non-payment of rent between March 1 and Aug. 31. The landlord also must provide the tenant with a form that the tenant can use to declare that he has been unable to pay the rent he owes because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A tenant whose income is equal to or greater than 130% of the area median income ($100,000 a year) must be able to provide documentation of that financial hardship (that would be a layoff or wage-reduction notice from an employer) if requested by the landlord. A tenant whose income is less than $100,000 is not required to provide that documentation.
To avoid being evicted for non-payment of rent between March 1 and Aug. 31, a tenant must fill out and return that form to the landlord within 15 days of receipt of the eviction notice. But to avoid being evicted for non-payment of rent between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2011, a tenant must submit a declaration of COVID-19 financial distress every month. As noted above, a tenant, should both email and send a hard copy of the financial hardship form via certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service or UPS, which means you will get notification that your landlord has signed a document confirming receipt of the form.
After Jan. 31, a tenant’s failure to pay the 75% of rent that AB 3088 has allowed to be postponed cannot be used by a landlord as cause for eviction. The money owed will be treated as “civil debt,” which means the landlord can take a tenant to small claims court if the past-due rent isn’t paid. However, if a tenant isn’t able to pay the 25% share of rent due between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, under state law the landlord can file an eviction notice beginning Feb. 1. AB 3088 limits public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, which reduces the risk that a tenant’s credit rating will be damaged because he or she was unable to pay rent on time.
The state eviction moratorium appears to conflict with, and override, the City of West Hollywood’s eviction moratorium. West Hollywood’s moratorium act gives tenants 12 months from its Sept. 30, 2020, expiration date to pay past their due rent. But an explanation of AB 3088 posted on the state’s website says that local ordinances must “provide a repayment schedule to begin repayment no later than March 1, 2021.” AB 3088 also says that a county or city government cannot extend its eviction moratorium beyond the date when the state’s moratorium expires. City Hall staffers have told WEHOville they are examining the various orders and their impact on one another.
Los Angeles County
Another decision that appears to have an impact on West Hollywood’s moratorium is the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passage of Sept. 1 of a proposal by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl that extends the eviction moratorium covering unincorporated communities through Oct. 31 and also expands its coverage to include incorporated areas like the City of West Hollywood. The county’s measure covers both residential and commercial tenants and only is applied in cities in Los Angeles County whose existing eviction protections fall short of the county’s. That would appear to mean that West Hollywood’s Sept. 30 moratorium for both residential and commercial evictions must be extended to Oct. 31.