Handling Evictions During A Pandemic
Handling evictions during a pandemic is tricky. Even under normal circumstances evictions are time-consuming, tedious, emotionally draining, and expensive. But sometimes they’re the only way to get uncooperative tenants out of your property. Before Covid, California landlords had to follow a very specific process to follow through with an eviction, and laws and processes varied by zip code. Now, the worldwide pandemic has added another level of difficulty to this already challenging process.
Covid-19 caused millions of people to lose their jobs and struggle financially, and many found it impossible to pay their rent. In August 2020, Governor Newson signed a bill that made it illegal for landlords to evict tenants based on their inability to pay their rent until Feb 1st, 2021.
According to the bill:
“No tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021, as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.”
As of January 29th, Governor Newsom signed a bill that extended eviction restrictions until June 2021.
It’s important to note that even under this legislation, tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid rent, but failure to pay can’t be the basis for an eviction. The new legislation put other protections in place for tenants, including:
- Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide the tenant additional time to respond to the landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.
- Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.
- Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 – January 31, 2021.
- Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.
Emergency Bans On Evictions During The Pandemic
But California isn’t the only place where eviction rules have changed. In September 2020, The CDC issued the Federal Eviction Protection Order which “prohibits residential landlords nationwide from evicting certain tenants through March 31, 2021.”
This Order protects tenants who:
- have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for housing
- are unable to pay their full rent due to a substantial loss of income
- are making their best efforts to make timely partial payments of rent, and
- would become homeless or have to move into a shared living setting if they were to be evicted.
Landlords should remember that information regarding real estate, evictions, and legal procedures are changing hourly as the pandemic changes. It’s important to stay up to date on the rules and regulations in your state. Some states had eviction bans that have been extended, while others have bans that have expired.
How To Avoid Eventually Evicting A Tenant
Evictions aren’t pleasant for anyone, and it’s worth finding ways to avoid them if possible. Here are a few things to try before moving forward with eviction:
Communication During The Pandemic
Communication is key for a successful landlord-tenant relationship, so start with a candid conversation. If the tenants are doing things that you believe warrant eviction, talk with them about it. Remind them of noise ordinances, the guest policy, the zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol. Sometimes, an honest conversation can generate the change you’re hoping to see.
Compromise During The Pandemic
Depending on the situation and the relationship you have with the tenant, you could find some kind of compromise. If they’re having trouble paying their rent, consider offering a payment plan. If there is any way where both you and the tenant can be satisfied without an eviction, give it a shot!
Cash For Keys During The Pandemic
If you’ve tried talking and your tenant still hasn’t changed, consider changing your approach. The “cash for keys” strategy is basically an incentive for your tenants to move out voluntarily. This agreement allows the property owner to offer tenants a sum of money to move out. If this strategy works, it’s usually much faster and more affordable than an eviction. A cash for keys agreement is legal in all 50 states and can be a win-win for everyone.
Even back when everything was “normal,” evictions were expensive and complicated, and the pandemic has just exacerbated that. Many California landlords hire Temecula property management companies (or other property management companies in their area) to help manage tenants. Property management companies often handle the details of the eviction process and are educated in state and federal fair housing laws. Safety is the key right now and a landlords pandemic safety checklist can be helpful.
Benefit National Property Management offers a wide range of owner services, from screening tenants to evictions, and can ease the burden of being a landlord in California.