Many Santa Monica renters have lost jobs or income during the pandemic, and worry about eviction. The good news is that state law protects residential tenants financially impacted by COVID-19 from eviction if they are unable to pay rent due between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
Tenants seeking protection must submit a declaration for each month that they are un-able to pay, and pay 25 percent of rent due for September 2020 – June 2021 by June 30, 2021. State law only protects tenants from eviction due to non-payment of rent.
The City of Santa Monica also enacted an eviction moratorium for residential and some commercial tenants. City protections for residential tenants for reasons other than non-payment of rent are in effect through June 30, 2021. The City’s moratorium protects tenants from evictions that are based owner-occupancy; the Ellis Act; refusing a non-emergency entry; having unauthorized occupants or animals; or causing a nui-sance that doesn’t endanger life or property.
Residential tenants in Santa Monica have overlapping protections under state law and the City’s eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent for March through September 2020. Santa Monica’s eviction moratorium for non-payment of residential rent ended September 30, 2020. California law prohibits cities from extending non-payment pro-tections for residential tenants after that date.
Even though tenants are protected from eviction if they meet the requirements, state law still allows landlords to give tenants notices for nonpayment of rent, but the notice must give tenants 15 days instead of three days to pay. Any eviction notice for non-payment must include a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress form. To be protected, tenants need to sign and return the declaration within 15 days of receipt. No documentation is needed unless a landlord has evidence before serving the notice of the tenant being “high income.”
The rent is deferred, not forgiven, and is still owed to the landlord as consumer debt. Landlords can sue tenants beginning August 1, 2021. Tenants who deferred rent un-der the City’s moratorium may have a defense in a debt-collection lawsuit if sued for rent due April – September 2020 before September 1, 2021.
California has announced rental assistance is on the way for landlords and tenants. Landlords can apply to receive 80 percent of past-due rent if they agree to forgive the remaining 20 percent. The program covers up to a year of unpaid, past due rent owed from April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021.
Qualifying tenants can also apply to the program if the landlord doesn’t. Tenants can apply for a 25 percent payment of all unpaid, deferred rent for the period April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Rental assistance may also be available to cover 25 percent of prospective rent for the months of April, May and Jun 2021. Go to https://landlordtenant.dre.ca.gov/ for more information.
If you are served with an eviction, it’s important to consult with a private attorney. You can contact the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles at lafla.org; Bet Tzedek at bet-tzedek.org/; and LA Represents at corona-virus.la/LARepresents.
More information is available at santamonica.gov/coronavirus. If you have questions that are not addressed here, contact the Public Rights Division of the City Attorney’s Office at 310-458-8336.
By Eda Suh