Here's What California's New Eviction Protections Mean For Renters

A Mariacchi band performs during a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, August 21, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

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A law designed to stop a wave of evictions was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom late last night. After drawing two-thirds support in the legislature, it became law of the land as soon as the governor signed it — but the situation will continue to change rapidly for tenants.

The new law protects tenants from being evicted for failing to pay rent between March and August of this year. Tenants need to sign paperwork declaring they haven't been able to pay due to COVID-19, and higher-income tenants may need to provide proof of their financial losses.

Going forward, tenants will need to pay 25% of their monthly rent; eventually they will be on the hook for the entire rent bill. (If tenants pay that 25%, the remaining balance will convert to civil debt and may not be used as grounds for an eviction.)

By Feb. 1, 2021, tenants will need to pay their full monthly rent to avoid eviction.

"COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California, but some bear much more of the burden than others — especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent — and they deserve protection from eviction," Gov. Newsom said shortly after signing the bill.

Without action from lawmakers, eviction proceedings would have resumed in courthouses across California this week.


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A COMPROMISE WITH PUSHBACK

The bill, AB 3088, was a compromise measure, scaled down from earlier and more ambitious proposals to keep tenants in their homes and compensate landlords for their losses. Lawmakers see it as a stopgap and have pledged to revisit the bill early next year.

"This gives us the time to reconsider our options next legislative session and potentially work with a new federal administration on economic relief for struggling tenants and property owners," said San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu, a key proponent of the law.

Under the new law, courts won't process eviction cases based on non-payment of rent until Oct. 5. However, other types of evictions can now move forward, and sheriff's departments could soon be locking out tenants across the state.

The measure grandfathers in eviction moratoriums enacted by states and cities.

The bill attracted criticism from tenant groups like the statewide Tenants Together, who say it doesn't go far enough.

Most tenants lack legal representation. For them, the bill's complicated, legalistic provisions could prove difficult to employ when they receive an eviction notice.

The bill was backed by the California Apartment Association, but was blasted by Dan Yukelson of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. The law, he wrote in an editorial yesterday, is "merely another knee-jerk attempt to stabilize housing on the backs of rental property owners."

Despite the misgivings of several lawmakers, the fears of an eviction tsunami helped rally two-thirds support on a chaotic final day in the legislature. Hours before the state senate took up the bill, UCLA and USC researchers published a report estimating that nearly 100,000 households in Los Angeles County have been threatened with eviction.

Another 40,000 households are already in eviction proceedings, the researchers said.

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