Newly Announced COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Bill Passes Senate

Monday, August 31, 2020

Legislation seeks to prevent evictions as Californians struggle to pay rent

Sacramento, CA--Newly amended legislation by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), and Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) to prevent and delay evictions passed the Senate floor today. Assembly Bill 3088, the product of negotiations led by Governor Gavin Newsom, seeks to prevent evictions for non-payment of rent for tenants financially impacted by COVID-19.

“This will not be the ultimate solution to addressing COVID-19 evictions, but will tide us over for the next five months,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “This gives us the time to reconsider our options next legislative session and potentially work with a new federal administration on economic relief for struggling tenants and property owners.”

Under AB 3088, tenants who have COVID-19 related financial hardships and missed rent payments between March 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020, cannot ever be evicted for those missed rent payments. The rent owed would be converted to civil debt, and landlords could recover that debt in small claims court.

The bill sets up a transition period between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, in which tenants with COVID-19 related financial hardships would need to pay 25 percent of the rent owed from September through January in order to be permanently protected from eviction for non-payment. If tenants are able to pay at least 25 percent, any remaining amounts owed to the landlord would be converted to civil debt and could not be used as the basis of an eviction.

If a tenant could not pay 25 percent of the rent owed between September 2020 and January 2021 by January 31, 2021, they could face eviction starting February 1, 2021.

Landlords would be able to file a civil lawsuit or use small claims court to recover rent owed from tenants starting March 1, 2021. Starting February 1, 2021, tenants would need to keep current with their rent. 

In order to claim a COVID-19 related hardship, tenants would need to return a declaration of hardship under penalty of perjury to their landlord. For many tenants, there would be no proof of documentation required with the declaration form. However, higher-income tenants, defined as those who make at least 130 percent of the area median income or over $100,000 per year, must provide documented proof of their financial hardship.

AB 3088 grandfathers in local ordinances regarding evictions for non-payment of rent that passed into law prior to August 19, 2020. However, localities would be prevented from passing new eviction ordinances regarding non-payment of rent until February 1, 2021.

As COVID-19 continues to leave millions without income, renters and homeowners have been unable to keep up with rent and mortgage payments. A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau between July 16-21 showed 3.8 million renter households reported “little to no confidence” in their ability to pay rent in August. Without legislative action, millions of Californians could be evicted, leading to an unprecedented and catastrophic increase in homelessness and COVID-19 spread. 

The bill will now move on for a vote in the Assembly Housing Committee and then a vote on the Assembly floor later today.

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