In April and May, we armed you with what California landlords and property managers need to know to formulate their business strategy on a statewide basis and in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the county of Los Angeles. (Click to see Part 1 and here to see Part 2.)
In this Part 3, we focus on what the cities of West Hollywood and Santa Monica are doing as the pandemic continues.
City of West Hollywood Moratorium on Evictions
- The City of West Hollywood approved an Urgency Ordinance on March 16, 2020 that protects renters with a temporary moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent during the current state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The residential eviction moratorium became effective March 16, 2020 and is in effect until May 31 unless extended by the City Council. The Moratorium applies to all residential tenants in the City of West Hollywood.
- During this period of local emergency, no landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant demonstrates that the tenant is unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19, or based on the presence of unauthorized occupants related to COVID-19.
- Tenant is required to notify landlord 30 days after the date that rent is due, in writing, of lost income and inability to pay full rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19. Tenant is required to provide documentation or an explanation to support the claim. Any medical or financial information provided to the landlord shall be held in confidence and be used only for evaluating the tenant's claim.
- "Financial impacts related to COVID-19" include, but are not limited to, tenant lost household income as a result of any of the following: (1) being sick with COVID-19, or caring for a household or family member who is sick with COVID-19; (2) layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from business closure or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19; (3) compliance with a recommendation from a government health authority to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency; (4) extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses; or (5) child care needs arising from school closures related to COVID-19.
- Tenant must repay the unpaid rent within twelve months of the expiration of the local emergency.
- A landlord may not charge or collect a late fee or interest for rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this ordinance; nor may a landlord seek rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this ordinance through the eviction process. In addition, a landlord cannot commence an eviction during the twelve months after the end of the local emergency, as long as the tenant pays rent in a timely manner after the period of local emergency and is repaying the past due rent that accrued during the emergency period.
- Landlords are strongly encouraged to offer payment plans to tenants after the period of local emergency, which may go beyond the twelve-month repayment period upon mutual written agreement of the parties. Tenants may draw on a security deposit during the repayment period to pay back rent, and such security deposit must be replenished by the end of the twelve-month repayment period or longer if mutually agreed upon in writing between the parties.
- On April 6, 2020, the City Council of the City of West Hollywood created a temporary eviction moratorium for commercial tenants.
- This order is effective from March 16, 2020 to May 31, 2020. No commercial landlord can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant demonstrates loss of income, during this period.
- Tenants are required to notify landlords in writing as soon as possible of inability to pay rent and no later than 30 days after the rent is due. Tenants must provide documentation that demonstrates the business's financial impact as soon as that documentation is available. This can include:
- Year-over-year sales from January to May, comparing 2019 with 2020;
- Gross sales receipts from January to May 2020;
- Any other supporting documentation that demonstrates a loss in income.
- Tenants have up to 90 days to provide full documentation of financial impact. Financial information submitted to landlords is confidential.
- Tenant must repay the unpaid rent within twelve months of the expiration of the local emergency.
- Landlords should work with the tenant to negotiate a best-case scenario for both parties. The City is asking landlords to offer payment plans to tenants, which can go beyond the six-month period, if both parties agree to the payment terms.
- Landlords are prohibited from:
- Charging a late fee or interest for delayed payment;
- Seeking deferred rent through the eviction process if tenant has complied with the terms of this ordinance;
- Starting an eviction during the six-month repayment period, on the basis of non-payment, if tenant is paying current and back rent;
- Commencing an unlawful detainer action for non-payment during this period if tenant has complied with the terms of this ordinance.
- Landlords are permitted to:
- Agree with tenant that tenant may use their security deposit as rent payment and replenish the security deposit funds as repayments are made;
- Request supporting documentation that demonstrates tenant's claim of financial impact and loss of income as a result of COVID-19;
- Require a partial rent payment that corresponds to the tenant's income that was generated during the period of loss.
Affirmative Defense and Enforcement
- The Ordinance grants a defense in the event that an unlawful detainer action is commenced in violation of the order. Violation of the Ordinance shall be punishable as set forth in Chapter 2.80 of the West Hollywood Municipal Code.
City of Santa Monica Moratorium on Evictions
Residential and Commercial Leases
- On April 30, 2020, the City of Santa Monica issued a Revised Supplemental Emergency Order for both residential and commercial tenants that extends the city's prior eviction moratorium (first issued March 14 and revised April 8) to June 30, 2020.
- The Supplemental Order extends from six to twelve months the time for both commercial and residential tenants to pay rent they were unable to pay because of financial impacts related to COVID-19.
- The Order excludes from these protections multinational companies, publicly traded companies, and companies that employ more than 500 employees.
- The Order further clarifies that when a tenant provides the landlord with written notice and documentation of the tenant's inability to pay rent, and indicates any loss of income or increase in expenses due to COVID-19, that is sufficient; and that a statement written by the tenant in a single communication may constitute both notice and documentation. The tenant must provide this written documentation within 30 days of the rent due.
- For a residential tenant, "financial impacts related to COVID-19" include, but are not limited to, household income lost as a result of any of the following: (1) being sick with COVID-19, or caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19; (2) layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from reduction of hours or closures or any other economic impacts of COVID-19; (3) compliance with a recommendation from a government health authority to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency; (4) extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses; or (5) child care needs arising from school closures or other circumstances related to COVID-19
- For a commercial tenant, "financial impacts related to COVID-19" include, but are not limited to, lost business income as a result of any of the following: (1) the commercial tenant or its employees being sick with COVID-19, or caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19; (2) reduction in hours of or closure of operation, increase in costs and labor, delays or interruptions, or any other economic impacts of COVID-19; (3) compliance with a recommendation from a government health authority to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency.
- The Order requires landlords who have not already provided tenants with notice of the eviction moratorium to provide tenants with notice using updated language.
- The Order recognizes that while a landlord and tenant may enter into a payment plan for payment of delayed rent, the landlord may not require a tenant to enter into a payment plan.
- The Order prohibits a landlord from deceiving a tenant in connection with their rights and obligations under the eviction moratorium.
- Finally, the Order automatically voids any provision in a rental agreement, payment plan, or any other agreement between a landlord and tenant that waives or modifies any rights under the eviction moratorium.
Affirmative Defenses and Enforcement Provisions
Santa Monica has outlined specific affirmative defenses a tenant has in court and enforcement provisions for landlords that violate the order:
- A tenant injured by a landlord's violation of any provision of the order has a private right of action against the landlord for violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et seq. and shall be entitled to attorney's fees and exemplary damages according to proof.
- A landlord who serves an eviction notice in bad faith and without reasonable grounds, or files or pursues an eviction action in bad faith and without reasonable grounds that terminates in the tenant's favor, or otherwise seeks to wrongfully terminate a tenancy or evict a tenant, shall be liable under the Order.
- The Order is enforceable by the Santa Monica Police Department and any City Officer or employee granted authority to issue written notices to appear, as a misdemeanor or through the issuance of administrative citations.
- The amount of the fine for each violation of any provision of this Order shall be up to a maximum of $1,000.
For guidance from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, click here.
For guidance from New York, click here.