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Much-needed Modifications to California’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act

The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 and the COVID-19 Small Landowner and Homeowner Relief Act of 2020, signed by California Gavin Newsom nearly two months ago, resulted in significant changes to landlord-tenant laws.

Help for Tenants and Landlords

The objective of the legislation was to provide relief to tenants, regardless of how long the pandemic lasts,  by preempting laws and legal actions that include:

  • Prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who have lawfully resided in the property for 12 months
  • Delay evictions due to unpaid rent and limit evictions to “just cause,” as defined by California law, which may include relocation assistance payments
  • Limit permissible rent increase amounts, judgments, and new notice requirements
  • Keep past-due/delinquent rent payments off credit reports
  • Partially rewritten three-day notices and special notices on rent increase limits provided to tenants

Rental property owners also benefit from the changes. Mortgagor protections once exclusively the purview of single-family homes where owners reside in the dwelling now apply to properties of no more than four units that house tenants. The change is temporary and will end on the first day of 2023.

Also, landlords can mandate written proof to verify hardship from high-income tenants dealing with financial problems that include:

  • Income loss
  • Increased out-of-pocket expenses
  • Caregiving for family members, including children

Collection actions in small claims courts can continue until February 1, 2025, at amounts that exceed jurisdictional limits of $5,000.

Landlords who do not abide by the new mandates could receive significant fines.

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