Jamie Altman Buggy Jamie Altman Buggy

There is currently no moratorium on evictions or unlawful detainers in the State of California. Instead, each local municipality has authority over both residential and commercial evictions, and evictions must be related to nonpayment of rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In California, there is no statewide moratorium against unlawful detainer actions,” Jamie Altman Buggy, an attorney at Crosbie Gliner Schiffman Southard & Swanson, tells GlobeSt.com. “Governor Newsom’s executive order delegated authority to each municipality in California to limit both residential and commercial evictions until May 31, 2020, as each municipality sees fit, with a single important limitation: unlawful detainers can only be restricted where the basis for eviction is nonpayment of rent arising out of a ‘substantial decrease in business income caused by a reduction in opening hours or consumer demand…caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented.”

It is important to note that this announcement is only for evictions related to non-payment of rent due to the coronavirus pandemic, and requires that tenants prove the connection. “In other words, municipalities cannot legally restrict unlawful detainer filings that arise from non-monetary defaults, or monetary defaults that are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Buggy. “Tenants must be able to document that their monetary default is related to COVID-19. That said, the possibility remains that municipalities and courts may improperly implement Governor Newsom’s executive order by imposing overly broad moratoriums on unlawful detainer proceedings.”

At the moment, most municipalities have placed some sort of moratorium on unlawful detainers. “At this time, numerous cities, including Los Angeles, have set in motion the enactment of temporary bans on residential and commercial evictions,’ says Buggy. “A moratorium has already taken effect in San Francisco until April 13, 2020 and in San Diego until May 31, 2020, and is subject to further extensions. Landlords should actively seek updates regarding moratoriums enacted in municipalities where they own real property.”

For eviction proceedings unrelated to the outbreak, landlords may still have a challenging time going through the process because of court closures. “In addition to moratoriums, other obstacles to eviction of non-paying tenants have been posed by state-wide court closures,” says Buggy. “Even in municipalities where no moratoriums are in effect, landlords are presently unable to file unlawful detainer proceedings—or any other proceeding—because courts are closed for purposes of non-emergencies until the beginning of April, at the earliest. We anticipate that court closures may be extended and are likely to affect the legal landscape beyond eviction proceedings. For example, San Diego courts have stated that they are unavailable to hear civil restraining orders.”