Understanding Residential Eviction Moratoriums During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The State of California established an eviction moratorium. Previously scheduled to end on June 30, the Governor has signed legislation to extend the moratorium through September 30, 2021. Even so, landlords need to know that residential tenants in Alameda County, including Fremont, also are protected by a County eviction moratorium, which may extend past the state’s September 30th date.
On April 22, 2020, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance No. O-2020-23 as an urgency ordinance to regulate evictions throughout the County during the COVID-19 public health emergency. On June 30, 2020, the County adopted Ordinance No. O-2020-41 to extend its previous eviction moratorium. The County’s ordinance prohibits all evictions anywhere in the County with few exceptions. This ordinance is effective until 60 days after the local public health emergency is lifted by the County. The County’s ordinance superseded the City of Fremont’s emergency order establishing a moratorium on residential evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, so the County’s ordinance provides that its regulation of residential evictions applies in the City of Fremont.
What are a landlord’s responsibilities under the County Ordinance?
Landlords are prohibited from evicting residential tenants for nonpayment of rent when the failure to pay rent is due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Landlords cannot charge late fees or take punitive action for failure to pay rent during the local public health emergency.
The eviction process typically begins with a “notice of termination” from the landlord to the tenant. A landlord must provide a copy of the County ordinance and the following notice in at least 12-point font when serving residents with a notice of termination:
“NOTICE: THE COUNTY OF ALAMEDA HAS ADOPTED A TEMPORARY MORATORIUM ON EVICTIONS DURING THE COVID-19 LOCAL HEALTH EMERGENCY INCLUDING EVICTIONS FOR NONPAYMENT OF RENT OR MORTGAGE PAYMENTS DUE TO COVID-19. A COPY OF THE COUNTY ORDINANCE IS ATTACHED. UPDATED INFORMATION MAY BE AVAILABLE FROM THE COUNTY’S HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT AT email@example.com or 510-670-6474.”
What are a tenant’s responsibilities under the Ordinance?
Tenants should make a reasonable effort to notify their landlord on or before the day rent payment is due, or as soon as possible thereafter, of their potential inability to make a timely rent payment due to a “Qualifying Loss.” A Qualifying Loss is a substantial loss in income, substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses or extraordinary child care needs, resulting in a substantial hardship or inability to make rent payments when due, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to any COVID-19 related declaration of the County Public Health Officer, or other local, state or federal authority.
A tenant is not relieved of the obligation to pay rent that became due during the effective period of the County ordinance. Under the County ordinance, unpaid rent may be collected as consumer debt 12 months after the date that the rent became due. Under state law, that repayment period cannot extend beyond August 31, 2022. If a tenant does not repay the back rent within the timeframes established by the County ordinance and related state law, the tenant’s landlord may collect this back rent as consumer debt. Landlords seeking to collect should consult with their own attorneys.
How can a tenant use the Ordinance?
A landlord must go to court to evict a tenant. The ordinance provides the tenant a defense in court to stop the eviction process when the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the tenant from paying rent.
What can I do if I need a lawyer to help with interpretation of the tenant eviction rules?
The following organizations provide assistance for tenants: