The City of San Diego has taken steps to prevent the eviction of both residential and commercial tenants during the time that the state of emergency surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak remains in effect.
On March 25, 2020, the San Diego City Council adopted a moratorium on evictions of tenants from properties located within the City of San Diego who are unable to pay rent due to financial hardships related to COVID-19.
You can view the text of the Ordinance (#O-21177), by clicking here. However, the protections that this Emergency Ordinance provides are not self-executing.
In order for tenants to benefit from the moratorium, they must take action in a timely manner, and should understand all their rights beforehand.
- “Rent Due” does not include any rent that was owed prior to March 12, 2020.
- “Financial impacts” means a substantial decrease in household income for a residential tenant, or in business income for a commercial tenant, due to business closure, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, layoffs, or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses. A financial impact is “related to COVID-19” if it is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or any governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including complying with any public health orders or recommended guidance related to COVID-19 from local, state, or federal governmental authorities.
- “written” includes email or text communications to a landlord or landlord’s representative, or agent with whom the tenant has previously corresponded by email or text.
Actions Required by Tenants Unable to Pay Rent Due to COVID-19
Tenants who have suffered a financial impact related to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, including losses caused by the actions of local, state, or federal government actions that have impacted the ability to pay rent, must submit the following to the owner of the property, or the property owner’s agent:
- Prior to the date that the rent becomes due, the tenant must provide written notice to the landlord, or landlord’s property manager that he, or she, is unable to make payment.
- Within one week of providing notice that he, or she, is unable to make the payment of rent, a tenant must provide documentation, or objectively verifiable information, that the tenant’s hardship is due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.
How are Landlords Restrained by the Ordinance?
If a tenant acts to communicate his or her inability to pay the rent as required by the Ordinance, and provides documentation demonstrating that the inability to pay the rent is due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, then landlords are prohibited from taking any of the following actions:
- Charge or collect any late fees for rent that is delayed;
- Serve a notice threatening eviction, or demanding the payment of rent;
- File, or prosecute any action to obtain possession of the property rented by the protected tenant;
- Otherwise attempt to evict that tenant for nonpayment of rent, including attempting to bring a no-fault eviction.
Landlords do not have a right to demand that you sign any other document concerning a tenant’s right to stay in possession, or to demand that a tenant provide any other financial information. They do not have a right to demand that you pay them with money from any stimulus checks, nor do they have a right to demand that you demonstrate you have applied for unemployment. They cannot demand that a tenant agree to a payment plan.
How Does the Ordinance Protect Against Eviction?
- Tenants that act to provide timely notice to the landlord as described in the statute will have up to six months from the date Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-28-20 is lifted to pay all unpaid rent.
- A tenant with financial impacts related to COVID-19 may use the protections granted by the Ordinance as an affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer action.
Other Important Information
Once again, although the Ordinance offers some protection against eviction for non-payment of rent during the State’s Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency Declaration, it is not rent forgiveness. Tenants still remain liable to pay the rent accrued, even if they lost all income due to the pandemic.
The Ordinance prohibits property owners from attempting to evict tenants for non-payment of rent for up to six months from the date the Ordinance is effective (March 25, 2020), or the withdrawal of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-28-20,which ever occurs soonest.
If any amount of rent remains unpaid after September 25, 2020, or after the Governor repeals the Executive Order declaring a state of emergency, a landlord may serve a notice to pay rent or quit and proceed to court if it the tenant does not pay.
If a tenant fails to provide the documentation required by the Ordinance demonstrating a loss of income related to the Coronavirus pandemic within 7 days of informing his or her landlord of an inability to pay rent, then the landlord may pursue “any enforcement action in accordance with state and local laws.”
The Ordinance does not explicitly prohibit landlords from attempting to enforce any other kind of agreement a tenant may enter into.
For this reason, it is very important that tenants obtain legal advice whenever a landlord offers any kind of statement, or document, or lease modification. Making such an agreement may negatively impact a tenant’s rights, and inadvertently cost a tenant thousands of dollars.
In addition to the City Council’s Emergency Declaration, the California State Assembly and the Judicial Council have also acted to restrain landlords from evicting due to financial hardships related to Coronavirus.
To fully understand all of your rights, and the protections offered to tenants in San Diego, it is extremely important to obtain legal counsel from a lawyer that specializes in landlord/tenant law. The current situation related to the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the legal landscape for tenants significantly during this past month, and it is likely that many more changes are yet to come. Getting the correct legal advice to protect your right to stay in your home and business has never been more important