Coronavirus: Landlord and Tenant Matters
As of Monday, April 6, 2020, all California courts are prevented from processing evictions and judicial foreclosure actions (with some limited exceptions). The emergency rules are designed to protect tenants and borrowers, govern all California State Courts and apply to both residential and commercial tenants and borrowers. Below are synopsis of two of the relevant emergency rules:
Emergency Rule 1 (“ER1”)
ER1 prohibits state courts from issuing a summons on an eviction (legal term: unlawful detainer (“UD”)), unless the court finds that “the action is necessary to protect public health and safety.” ER1 also prohibits state courts from entering default or a default judgment for restitution in UD actions for a defendant’s failure to appear, unless the court finds the action is necessary to protect public health and safety and the defendant has not appeared within the time provided by law, as extended by any applicable executive order. Finally, ER1 provides that once a defendant has appeared in the UD action, the court may not set trial for a date earlier than 60 days after a request for trial is made, unless the court finds that an earlier trial date is necessary to protect public health and safety.
Emergency Rule 2 (“ER2”)
ER2 stays all judicial foreclosure actions, whether commercial or residential and prohibits state courts from taking any action or issuing any decisions or judgments unless the court finds that foreclosure is required to further the public health and safety.
These rules will remain in effect until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic or the Judicial Council governing the Courts amends or repeals the rules.
While many counties and municipalities have previously enacted emergency ordinances to prevent evictions attributable to loss of income caused by shelter-in-place executive orders, these rules are more overreaching in that they effectively block access to the courts for most landlords and lenders for at least the next 120 days.
There likely will be a flood of evictions and non-judicial foreclosures once the emergency declaration is lifted, unless the legislature intervenes. But while these measures provide clarity for all stakeholders, it is not at all clear how the courts will process the deluge of evictions that will almost certainly be filed once these rules are lifted.
While removal of the threat of eviction and foreclosure during this crisis may well support the public health effort to “flatten the curve,” this puts residential and commercial property owners, renters and even the Courts in uncharted territory.
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