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SUMMARY: California Courts issue Emergency Rule on Evictions and Foreclosures

At its meeting on April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council adopted an emergency court rule that effectively stops all evictions, other than those necessary to protect public health and safety, for the duration of  the COVID‐19 emergency. The rule is applicable to all courts and to all eviction cases, whether they are  based on a tenant’s missed rent payment or another reason. This new court rule will apply until 90 day after the Governor lifts the state of emergency related to the COVID‐19 pandemic, or until it is amended  or repealed by the Judicial Council. The rule:

  • Prohibits a court from issuing a summons after a landlord files an eviction case, unless necessary to protect public health and safety. This means that, even if a landlord files an eviction case,  most tenants will not need to respond until the emergency rule expires, ensuring that tenants  do not lose their right to tell their side of the story in court due to the emergency.
    • The time for a tenant to respond to a new eviction case does not begin until the tenant  is served with a court‐issued summons, and in nearly all unlawful detainers cases, no  summons will be issued during this emergency period.
    • If a court finds on the record that an eviction action is necessary to protect public health  and safety, the court will issue a summons even during this emergency period. Only in  these rare cases will a tenant be required to respond in court after being served with  the summons and complaint.
  • Prohibits a court from entering a default judgment against the tenant because the tenant failed to file a response, unless the court finds on the record:
    • The eviction is necessary to protect public health and safety; and
    • The tenant failed to respond in the time required by law, including any extension that  may apply due to the Governor’s Executive Order regarding evictions during the COVID19 emergency.
  • For eviction cases where the tenant has responded or appeared, prohibits a court from setting the case for trial earlier than 60 days after a trial is requested, unless necessary to protect public  health and safety.
  • Requires any trial in an eviction case that was already scheduled as of April to be postponed  until at least 60 days after the initial trial date.

In addition, the Judicial Council adopted an emergency rule related to judicial foreclosures. This rule also applies until 90 days after the Governor lifts the COVID‐19 state of emergency. The rule:

  • Prohibits a court from taking any action or issuing any decisions or judgments unless  necessary for public health and safety.
  • Postpones any legal deadlines for filing judicial foreclosure cases.
  • Extends the period for exercising any rights in a judicial foreclosure case, including any right  of redemption from a foreclosure sale, or petitioning the court in relation to such a right.

Note that this rule does not impact non‐judicial foreclosures, which comprise the vast majority of  foreclosures in California. Non‐judicial foreclosure sales are conducted by private parties outside the  courthouse and are not affected by these new emergency rules.

While these emergency rules effectively put evictions and judicial foreclosures on hold at least  through the summer, they do not establish any new tenant rights or defenses to an eviction, address  requirements for notifying landlords or providing documentation when tenants are unable to pay  rent due to loss of income or other COVID‐19 related reasons, or address how repayment will be  handled. These are all issues that would be difficult for the courts to take on, or that they don’t have  the authority to address. We expect that the Legislature will address these issues with urgency when  it returns in May.

Coronavirus: California courts halt all lender foreclosures, renter evictions

“We are extremely relieved that the Judicial Council has shown the type of leadership we need to make sure that basic, straightforward protections are in place, reducing any immediate risk to tenants and allowing them to focus on protecting their health and safety without worrying about losing their homes at a time when they are being told to shelter in place to avoid the spread of a highly contagious and deadly virus,” stated Western Center on Law & Poverty, a tenant rights group.”

Coronavirus: California courts halt all lender foreclosures, renter evictions

Western Center’s Housing Bills Become Law, Creating Landmark Renter Protections for Californians

By Madeline Howard, Western Center housing attorney

This week, Governor Newsom signed two historic renter protections into California law, both of which Western Center proudly co-sponsored, both decades in the making.

Assemblymember David Chiu’s AB 1482 is getting most of the attention because it establishes something many housing advocates never thought we would see in California – statewide protection from “no cause” evictions, and anti-rent gouging protections. Without these protections, most California landlords could evict a tenant without stating a reason – even long-term tenants who always paid their rent on time and followed all of the rules. And across the state, we’ve seen Californians indirectly evicted from their homes when rents are raised by 50, even 100 percent. The passage of AB 1482 will halt this unsustainable trajectory to keep more people in their homes.

The second of our bills that was signed into law is Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 329. SB 329 was also an uphill battle, because so many people have unfounded negative perceptions about the federal housing voucher program, and many landlords openly state “No Section 8” in their rental listings.* SB 329 will prevent that from now on. Just as landlords are not permitted to discriminate against rental applicants because of things like race and gender, now California has outlawed discrimination based on a person’s use of housing assistance to pay the rent.

If you are wondering why SB 329 is such a big deal, let me explain. Remember the horrifying photos of a suburban police officer in Texas kneeling on a young black girl’s back as she cried, face down on the grass, in her bathing suit? Someone in the mostly-white neighborhood had called the police on the group of black teenagers for being “rowdy.” Why am I reminding you of yet another ugly incident of police brutality, violent racism, and white supremacy? Because one of those white neighbors reportedly yelled, “Go back to your Section 8 housing!”

SB 329 matters because it addresses this kind of racism head on. While our fair housing laws have long made it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to someone because of their race, California landlords were still free to say “No Section 8.”

In a chilling echo of the blatant discrimination that dominated centuries of American history, many signs and online rental listings openly say “no dogs, no Section 8.” SB 329 is important not just because it will help low income people who rely on housing vouchers actually access housing of their choice (which is hugely important on its own), but also because it addresses an ugly vestige of our deeply racist housing industry.

Our amazing housing policy advocate Sasha Harnden worked tirelessly to get SB 329 into place, because in his time as a legal services attorney in LA, he saw firsthand how clients were repeatedly turned away from housing because of landlords’ “No Section 8” policies. We are hopeful that despite the continuous rollback of civil rights on the federal level, this step forward for California will help thousands of people find and keep stable, safe, affordable housing with their vouchers, and that SB 329 will be a powerful tool for combating housing discrimination. There is so much more work to be done, but with this law we move closer to tackling segregation and racist, exclusionary practices in housing.

Just as California takes huge steps to address discrimination in housing, the Trump administration threatens to undermine decades of Civil Rights protections under the Fair Housing Act by gutting the Disparate Impact rule. To get involved in the fight to stop this civil rights rollback, visit www.fightforhousingjustice.org.

In California, we are deeply grateful to Senator Holly Mitchell for her incredible leadership on the issue of housing voucher discrimination, and I am immensely proud of my colleagues in Sacramento, Sasha Harnden and Anya Lawler, who worked so hard to make these bills happen. In the midst of the state’s housing crisis, people shouldn’t be turned away from stable housing because they need rental assistance. California is an expensive state to live in, and it’s only getting worse. The relief renters can access through various federal, state, and local housing voucher programs is an important tool in California’s fight to keep people housed and off the street. I am so proud to be a part of the team that made these historic wins happen, and I am excited to see what we can build on from here.

 

* The federal housing choice voucher program was previously known as “Section 8” and many people still refer to it that way.