The emergency bill to extend eviction protections for residential tenants affected by COVID-19 throughout California, which were slated to expire on January 31, 2021, has been inked by Governor Newsom.
The amended COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (SB-91) prohibits a landlord from evicting a residential tenant for non-payment of rent through the end of June, 2021, if said tenant has provided an official declaration of COVID-19 financial distress and continues to pay at least 25 percent of their contractual rent, either monthly or in a lump sum.
Once again, the bill does not forgive any past due rents, nor does it prohibit a landlord from seeking to collect any rental debt accumulated between April 1, 2020, and June 31, 2021, once the protections have expired (with a one month grace period through the end of July), but it does remove the threat of eviction due to said rental debt going forward and prohibits any landlords, tenant screening company or other entity from using a COVID-19 related rental debt as a negative factor “for the purpose of evaluating a prospective housing application or as the basis for refusing to rent a dwelling unit to an otherwise qualified prospective tenant.”
The bill also extends the legal “Pay or Quit” period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days and protects tenants from being evicted for a claimed “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be surreptitiously attempting to evicting a tenant for a qualified nonpayment of rent.
In addition, the bill establishes a roughly $1.5 billion Rental Assistance Program which will provide direct rental assistance to low-income households and from which landlords will be able to recover up to 80 percent of a tenant’s unpaid rental debt accumulated between April 1, 2020, and June 31, 2021, “conditioned upon the landlord’s agreement to forgive the remaining rental debt owed.” And if a landlord is unwilling to forgive any portion of a tenant’s past due rent, which can not be sold or assigned to a third-party for collection, tenants can apply for a relief grant valued at 25 percent of their qualified rental debt to offset any collections.