SB-91 COVID-19 Relief Bill (Law Changes: Senate Bill)

SB 91 is the new California law related to COVID rental relief. This is a summary of the most important parts of the law. As always, when dealing with legal matters, you should consult an attorney before proceeding with any legal action against your tenant. Moreover, there are new forms for serving the tenant – if you are not already a part of your local apartment association, now is the time to join.

Having these legal documents is very important and is becoming more essential with all the new laws they have passed in the last 15 months. A local apartment association will be able to provide you with forms and also advice for some of the more complicated situations you will find yourself in during your property management career.

Important Information & Dates:

  • The first and most important information you will need to know is that rent deferment has been extended to June 30th, 2021. There were two time periods prior to this, one from March 4th to August 31st and the next time period was from September 1st to January 31st. During the second time period, a tenant was required to pay 25% of their rent but it could have been paid in a lump sum on January 31st. That has been extended another 5 months to June 30th, with the same 25% payment requirement. 
  • All funds can be paid on the last day of that time period. If this payment is not made on or by June 30th, you can proceed with an eviction for non-payment of rent.
  • You have to send form Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress to all tenants who owe money after September 1st, 2020, informing them of the law changes and their rights. This is brand new and you must send this additional form even if you sent the last one during 2020. Just like the last period, tenants are supposed to sign the document stating that they can’t pay rent due to COVID-19 related reasons or be subject to eviction.

Even though evictions are still possible for nonpayment of rent, most eviction attorneys are not recommending it. The reason being is that it is so easy to beat the evictions under the current climate. If your tenant doesn’t sign the required documents, they could hand it to the judge on your court date and he would throw out the eviction. If your tenant makes over 130% of the median area income they are not eligible for protection but you would have to prove that. If they could provide information to the judge showing loss of income, they could have the eviction dropped.

Some other items that come along with this will be a program open to landlords and tenants which will provide government assistance for your tenant. The programs would provide 80% of the tenants owed debt if 20% of the debt is forgiven. The tenant must make below 80% of the median area income to qualify for this program. Program details can further be found on the California Housing Authority website.

The stated goals of this law and these rental assistance programs are to keep tenants inside their units. This is why we are recommending to our clients to not pursue evictions over owed rent. There might be some cases that will be justified but it doesn’t look to be an easy task. This doesn’t prevent you from pursuing evictions for violations of the lease.

For more information on the SB-91 please see California’s Legislative Information website.

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